Trek to greener pasture abroad continues, grows among PH nurses | Inquirer News
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Trek to greener pasture abroad continues, grows among PH nurses

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 11:34 PM November 05, 2021

FILE PHOTO: Health workers spray disinfectant as they make their way through a village on lockdown in Manila last March. FILE PHOTO/RICHARD REYES

MANILA, Philippines—The exodus of nurses in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic has gotten worse as 25 percent more Filipino nurses migrated to the United States to practice their profession.

According to Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, from January to September this year, a total of 5,957 nurses who studied in the Philippines took the US licensure examination for the first time.

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Citing data from the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc., Defensor said the figures were 25 percent higher than the 4,758 Philippine nursing graduates that took the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)—the final step in the licensure process for nurses in the US—for the first time in the same nine-month period in 2020.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

“We expect a large number of Filipino nurses to aspire to move into America’s labor market in the months ahead because of the irresistible lure of high pay,” Defensor said.

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“In California, for instance, a registered nurse receives an average of $120,560 (P6.1 million) per year,” the lawmaker said in a statement released on Friday (Nov. 5).

Graphic by Ed Lustan

“Right now, there are thousands of unfilled hospital nursing staff vacancies across America,” Defensor said.

At least 46 percent of Filipino nurses had passed the NCLEX on their first attempt, while around 27 percent of repeaters made the grade.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

Since 1994, a total of 218,006 Philippine nursing graduates have taken the NCLEX for the first time.

More job openings overseas

Defensor mentioned Aya Healthcare—a San Diego, California-based nursing agency—which has over 55,000 job openings for “travel nurses” to fill gaps in over 3,000 hospitals in the US “for periods of 13 to 26 weeks at a time.”

Last month, Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPi) president Dr. Jose Rene De Grano said at least five to 10 percent of Filipino private health workers have already resigned to work overseas.

“For the past maybe two or three weeks, we saw that around five percent or more of our nurses — especially our nurses — file resignations to work in other countries,” said De Grano.

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“Maybe at least five to 10 percent want to work overseas,” he added.

READ: 5-10% of private health workers in PH resign to work overseas — hospitals group

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III confirmed in October that there was a “strong clamor” for Filipino nurses abroad.

He also said that a lot of countries have been reaching out to him to allow the deployment of Filipino nurses.

Earlier, the government suspended the deployment of doctors, nurses, and health care workers abroad to preserve human resources in fighting the COVID.

However, nurses and medical workers with complete documents as of Aug. 31, 2020, were now allowed to leave the country following recommendations issued by DOLE.

READ: There is ‘strong clamor’ for Filipino nurses abroad, says Bello

Aside from the US, countries such as Brunei and Saudi Arabia have previously opened more job opportunities and offered to host more Filipino nurses.

“The Kingdom (of Saudi Arabia) offered again to host more Filipino nurses where they are deeply appreciated; not deprecated and detained back home,” wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Twitter last August.

“Give them a chance to earn a decent living and up their skillset; then get recruited by Western countries which is fine with The Kingdom. Thank you,” Locsin wrote.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

On the other hand, Labor Attache Melissa Mendizabal, of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Brunei Darussalam, issued a statement in the same month, seeking an exemption from the Philippines’ deployment cap on health workers.

“There are two hospitals here, one government hospital and one private hospital. The salary is comparable to the salary of nurses in Singapore,” Mendizabal said.

“Nurses receive high take-home pay because of the free accommodation and transportation. If they render overtime work, they earn as much as 2,000 Brunei dollars per month,” she added.

READ: Brunei seeks exemption from PH health workers deployment limit

‘Exodus’ of nurses

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, nurses were among the health workers and frontline workers who were first to be overwhelmed and overworked in the fight to save lives.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

Despite their long and exhausting shifts to keep COVID-19 cases from getting out of control, many nurses reported being underpaid and uncompensated.

The high COVID-19 case count in the Philippines, paired with the slow release of benefits for health workers amid high demand for Filipino nurses abroad have already enticed many to leave.

The St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) was one of the hospitals that suffered from the mass resignation of nurses this year.

In August, the hospital’s Quezon City branch was lacking 127 nurses. That same month, 88 health workers in SLMC QC held a mass walkout to protest the government’s delay in disbursing their benefits such as the special risk allowance.

Graphic by Ed Lustan

Meanwhile, the SLMC branch at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig was not spared by the mass resignation as the number of nurses in its emergency rooms has declined from 66 to 43 during the same month.

According to the PHAPi, an estimated 40 percent of private hospital nurses resigned in 2020.

READ: Nurses’ exodus: Hailed as heroes, treated like peons

Higher wages for nurses in PH

Many nurses, who have resigned or protested delays in release of benefits, have cited low pay and lack of benefits amid a heavy workload as the main reasons for disillusionment in the Philippines.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) showed the following estimated salary or compensation for nurses in the Philippines:

  • Entry-level registered nurse — P8,000 to P13,500 per month
  • Registered nurses hired at a hospital — average salary of P9,757 per month
  • Average salary in government hospitals — P13,500 per month
  • Average salary in private sector — around P10,000 per month

While some nurses move to other hospitals that can offer them better pay and secure their benefits, some have decided to work abroad.

The rate offered for nurses overseas, according to DOLE, are as follows:

  • United States — average salary of P193,083 ($3,800) per month
  • United Kingdom — around P116,397 (£1,662) per month
  • Canada — at least P168,177 ($4,097) for entry-level

READ: PH health workers: A pandemic of big work, small pay

Defensor, in his statement, said he has been urging Congress to pass House Bill 7933, which seeks to increase the starting monthly base pay of nurses employed in Philippine government hospitals.

Under the bill, the starting monthly base pay for nurses working in government hospitals will nearly double from P33,575 to P60,901.

“We are counting on our measure, once enacted, to help dissuade at least some of our nurses, particularly those with strong ties here at home, from going overseas,” Defensor said.

The bill likewise suggested that the entry-level pay of government nurses shall be bumped up by six notches to Salary Grade 21.

Defensor’s bill seeks to amend the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which gave nurses a minimum monthly base pay of Salary Grade (SG) 15 amounting to P32,053 to P34,801 in state-run health institutions.

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TAGS: Anakbayan, Coronavirus, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, Filipino nurses, Health, health care workers, hospitals, House Bill 7933, INQFocus, Mike Defensor, NCLEX, nurses, nurses exodus, nurses wage, pandemic, resignation
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