Duterte hopes health workers with no contracts abroad stay to help with pandemic

(Philstar.com) - September 21, 2020 - 11:09pm

MANILA, Philippines — Although the ban on the deployment of healthcare workers abroad has been lifted, President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday that he hopes that those without contracts yet will stay and help the country through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Palace earlier Monday announced that nurses with complete documents as of August 31 may now leave the country for work.

"Sana yung iba naman (I hope some of you) will have the spirit and the fervor to serve the Filipino because we also need help and we have a crisis also to deal with," the president said in a recorded address that was aired on Monday night.

He stressed, however that he has "respect for all of you, for those who want to go out of the country" because of higher pay abroad.

According to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier Monday, the lifting of the ban would mean around 1,500 healthcare workers with existing contracts abroad would be allowed to leave the country. Previously, only those with contracts as of March 8 were allowed to leave.

The deployment ban was a government measure meant to ensure that there would be enough healthcare workers in the Philippines to help the country deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Tagal-tagalan na lang muna ninyo until this COVID has passed," the president said Monday night.

(Stay a little longer until this COVID has passed)

RELATED: Only 25 nurses applied for DOH emergency hiring program

Roque in August had also appealed to nurses to stay in the Philippines, with state-run Philippine News Agency quoting him as saying he was sure that "nationalism will prevail in the hearts and feelings of our nurses."

In the same PNA report, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the Department of Health was "[appealing] to our healthcare workers hoping that their sense of nationalism will prevail at a time of pandemic."

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in August that only 25 nurses applied to enter the DOH's emergency hiring porgram as he likewise appealed to their "sense of nationalism, to the sense of patriotism of every healthcare worker."

READ: Nurses' union calls for mass hiring as Cebu City grapples with COVID-19

In June, Filipino Nurses United called for immediate mass hiring of nurses with "minimum entry salary of P32,000, just benefits including hazard pay, adequate personal protective equipment, and safe nurse to patient workload."

It said it made a similar call in March "but sadly, the Department of Health responded with a call for volunteer health warriors with an allowance of P500 a day." 

The nurses' group also said then that it had received reports of government nurses not being given hazard pay.

"Likewise, they have not yet received other mandated benefits under the DOH Department Memorandum No. 2020-0153 on 'Interim Guidelines for Emergency hiring' issued last April 12, 2020 such as transportation and communication allowances and the P100K compensation 'in case of COVID-19 infirmity'," FNU also said. 

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