Non-profit organization Filipino Nurses United today urged the Duterte government to lift its deployment ban on all medical professionals, saying that it is the frontliners’ right to seek better salaries overseas.
Jocelyn Andamo, the group’s secretary-general, said in an interview with news program Unang Hirit, that there are enough Filipino nurses who could work in the country even if the government lifts the ban.
“The Filipino Nurses United is pushing for the total lifting of the deployment ban of nurses and other healthcare workers. Because we believe that it is a nurse’s right to seek better work opportunities and better pay outside of the country especially if the government cannot give this to us,” she said in English and Filipino.
She added that it was necessary for Filipino nurses to work overseas after spending thousands of pesos in the application process, with some of them even incurring high amounts of debt.
“They spend almost PHP100,000 (US$2,058) for their examinations and documents. And they even take out loans so [they could work] and feed their families,” Andamo said.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in April that he was “OK” with the decades-old practice of exporting Filipino nurses, but implemented the deployment ban at the same time so that the country would have enough healthcare workers as it battles the pandemic. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III tried to appease disgruntled medical workers this week by saying that he is mulling the possibility of allowing those who have been hired on or before Aug. 31 to leave the country.
Filipino nurses have been recruited by foreign governments since the early 1950s, starting when the United States faced a dearth of medical professionals after World War II. At present, one-third of foreign-born nurses in the U.S. are from the Philippines, and thousands of Filipino nurses have also been recruited by countries such as Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, among others.
Pinoy medical professionals have long sought to work overseas, citing better pay as the primary reason. Nursing schools in the Philippines charge at least PHP120,000 (US$2,471) in fees per year, but the average monthly salary in local hospitals is as low as PHP10,000 (US$206) per month. This is in stark contrast to the UK, where nurses can earn as high as US$7,500 per month.
Meanwhile, Andamo said that nurses are still dealing with a deluge of COVID-19 patients despite reports that the country is flattening the curve.
“We can’t say that nurses are being given the time to rest because the number of cases keeps increasing. In fact, many healthcare workers are getting sick. Our problem is, testing is inadequate because when someone is asymptomatic they are not being tested including some of the patients,” she said.