DOLE urged to allow nurses to go abroad
Senators asked the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Thursday to lift the suspension in the deployment of nurses and medical workers abroad which is expected to last until Aug. 31 next year.
“We are making them stay but they are not even employed here so they are included in the unemployment rate … Why do we have to stop them? They also have a family to feed,” Sen. Nancy Binay told Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during a Senate hearing on the DOLE’s budget.
Binay said she understood the need to balance the needs of the government and individual Filipinos but she emphasized that the government should not deprive the nurses of the chance to earn more in a time of need.
“We have 500,000 available nurses. Private and public hospitals need only 90,000 nurses … Some [government source] says there are 500,000 available nurses. Others say 200,000. Maybe we can allow them to leave the country. Times are hard these days. If [nurses] have the opportunity to work abroad, I hope we will allow them,” she added.
Open to lifting
But Bello said he was open to lifting the suspension of medical workers’ deployment abroad.
“I have explained our position to our health care workers. Our minds are not closed for their deployment, but what we want to make sure is that we have the sufficient number of nurses,” Bello said during a budget hearing.
Bello said there was no deployment ban, but the Governing Board Resolution No. 09-2020 of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), signed by Bello in April, suspended the deployment of all health care workers.
POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia said there were 106,744 nurses abroad but because of the temporary suspension order and the cutoff date, some 1,000 to 1,500 nurses were affected monthly.
In January, 7,604 nurses were deployed; 4,709 in February; 2,269 in March. Since the temporary suspension, there were only 298 nurses deployed in April; 330 in May; 278 in June; 643 in July; and 154 in August, Olalia said.
Bello said the government was concerned it could lose the experienced nurses to other countries but failed to explain why medical workers prefer to work abroad.
Sen. Joel Villanueva, chair of the committee on labor, agreed with Binay.
“Let’s ask the DOLE family to ask the DOH (Department of Health) to improve their offer to nurses. Otherwise, we are pushing our nurses away,” he said.
The basic pay of Filipino nurses is P40,300, but nurses in Vietnam get P62,300 and Thai nurses get P83,000.
Sen. Cynthia Villar also sympathized with nurses because their salaries in the Philippines were among the lowest in Southeast Asia and vowed to push for a law that would upgrade nurses’ pay scales.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros also pushed for the lifting of the order, saying the DOH had already said there were some 65,000 nurses employed in private and public hospitals in the country.
“We just have to wait and observe the development of this pandemic,” Bello said.