A LAWMAKER has filed a bill to establish a nursing scholarship program to address the shortage of nurses in the Philippines.
“Yearly, we lose hundreds of nurses who seek greener pastures elsewhere. This mass exodus of health workers greatly affects our health system causing it to collapse. No one was addressing this, and so we crafted this measure,” Anakalusugan Party-list Representative Ray Florence Reyes said as he filed House Bill (HB) No. 6631 to address the shortage of nurses in the country.
The bill which will be known as the “Nursing Scholarship and Return Service Program Act” aims to provide a “pay it forward” scholarship to deserving students in state universities and colleges or private higher education institutions in regions taking up bachelor’s degrees in nursing to curb the growing gap in local nurses to hospital bed ratio.
“We want to provide a scholarship scheme to those who wish to take up nursing in college and pursue it as a profession, then create a return service program to pay the scholarship forward through public service. In a bigger picture, this will develop our healthcare human resource to meet the needs of our citizens and ensure adequacy in registered nurses in the country,” Reyes said.
The scholarship grant is not limited to first-year students but also to existing nursing students who wish to avail of the program. The program will provide free tuition and school fees, allowance for books and needed supplies and equipment, financial assistance during internships, and medical insurance to interested applicants.
In return, once the student finishes the degree, they are required to take the board examination within a maximum period of one year, of which the cost will be covered.
The student will then serve one and a half years for every academic year of scholarship availed in his province or municipality hospital or provider as determined by the local government unit (LGU) and confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH).
“It is the State’s policy to protect and promote the right to health of people. To achieve this, the government must ensure that there is an adequate amount of healthcare workers at any given moment, in any municipality or community in the country. Additionally, the health and welfare of these healthcare workers must also be a priority,” Reyes stated.
Under the bill, DOH will be tasked to determine the number of nurses for every municipality or province and then provide the proper integration of the scholar into the public health and medical service system, which includes providing the necessary number of plantilla positions to accommodate the new nurses. In the same manner, the health department shall craft a career pathway to enhance the scholar’s competencies and skills.
“We want to make sure that each municipality or province have scholars that will provide service to their own towns, making sure that we have enough nurses evenly placed in all parts of the country. While our nurse-to-patient ratio is continually growing, mass exodus of our nurses continues. I hope that through this bill we can strike two birds with one stone by giving our aspiring nurses a chance at education and growth paired with regularized and secured positions during their service,” Reyes said.
According to the Journal of Global Health, Asia is among the regions with the lowest density of nurses despite being the largest supplier of nurses worldwide.
In the same study, it enumerated that the Philippines supplied 240,000 nurses to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In October 2022, DOH said that there was a shortage of 106,000 nurses in the country.