Reasonable payback

October 28, 2022 People's Tonight 313 views

It’s the State getting its rightful return on its “investments”.

And the government is not even claiming financial dividends here.

Just service as payback for financially supporting their education.

Thus, we agree with Sen. Imee Marcos in recommending the inclusion of “pledge-of-service” arrangements in scholarship programs for nurses beyond the stop-gap measure of resetting deployment limits.

Marcos said this long-term solution, to which the Philippine Nurses Association agrees, would give nursing students the educational security they need while the country can expect a steady workforce of new nurses each year.

“Until such incentives can be legislated, the government should not curtail a nurse’s choice to leave for work overseas,” she said.

A legislative measure, which the lady lawmaker said can convince Filipino nurses to stay in the country is for Congress to raise their salary grade in private hospitals to Level 15 or a minimum of P35,097.

The lawmaker said the Department of Budget and Management should rethink its policy of excluding contractual nurses from the salary upgrade and for the Department of Health to prioritize them for regular employment.

“Even contractual nurses were tried and tested during the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic. They also risked their lives like regular nurses,” she noted.

Marcos said Congress can also give permanence to healthcare workers’ special risk allowances, which would expire when the state of public health emergency ends on December 31.

With final budget deliberations to begin in November, she urged fellow lawmakers to support these proposed reforms for the nursing profession.

She said this in anticipation of “inseparable public health and economic challenges” in the months to come wherein the global nursing shortage, which the International Council of Nurses put at 17 percent, has created higher-income opportunities abroad for Filipino nurses.

However, Marcos warned that their departure would weaken the country’s ability to cope with public health emergencies during pandemics and natural calamities.

According to DoH data as of September 30 this year, the country is short by about 106,000 nurses while the Hamburg-based survey and statistics firm Statista reported that the country only had 8.03 nurses for every 10,000 Filipinos which is only 29 percent of the ideal nurse-to-patient-ratio of 27.5 : 10,000 as stated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“Our own shortage of nurses and the fear of an unforeseen pandemic or widespread natural calamity like an earthquake call for their presence here. On the other hand, they are breadwinners helping their families cope with the ever-rising cost of living,” the lawmaker said.

With the peso seen to weaken further against the dollar in the coming months, Marcos acknowledged that nurses’ remittances would help shore up the country’s foreign currency reserves.

The government is still calibrating its policy on nurse deployment abroad amid conflicting recommendations from the Health and Labor departments regarding the annual deployment cap of 7,000 nurses.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration told the senator’s office that, as of the second week of October, the average monthly deployment of about 500 nurses left some 2,000 slots open for the rest of the year.