âEnough health workers even after travel ban liftedâ
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte had sought assurance from the Department of Health that the country would have enough health workers before approving the request to lift the deployment ban.
Boy Santos, file

‘Enough health workers even after travel ban lifted’

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 24, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is expected to still have enough health personnel to fight COVID-19 when the travel ban on medical workers is lifted in January, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte had sought assurance from the Department of Health (DOH) that the country would have enough health workers before approving the request to lift the deployment ban.

“You know, when it was requested by the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), the President did not respond immediately because he had to communicate with Secretary (Francisco) Duque (III) of DOH to ensure that we have enough nurses here in our country,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“There was an assurance from the DOH that we have enough health professionals here in the ippines,” he added.

The ban on the deployment of health workers was lifted through Governing Board Resolution 9 issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Although only up to 5,000 health professionals can work abroad every year, Roque said the deployment cap might be increased “in due course.” The policy will take effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

“The President and the IATF thoroughly studied this and the balancing of interests was upheld. The country’s need for nurses, nursing assistance and nursing aides was taken into account while considering the recognition of the talents of Filipinos in other countries and the demand for workers overseas,” Roque pointed out.

“The lifting of the deployment ban on health workers was in line with the policy of the government to ensure full employment and to raise the standard of living and improve the quality of life for all,” he said.?He noted that the slower COVID-19 transmission in the Philippines and updates in vaccine development have prompted Duterte to end the deployment ban. The 5,000 deployment ceiling, he explained, was based on the labor department’s estimate of the number of health professionals who want to work abroad.

The deployment ban, which took effect last April, was meant to ensure that the Philippines would have enough manpower as it battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

But for the group Filipino Nurses United (FNU), there is no reason yet to celebrate the lifting of the deployment ban as there is no clear policy on how to select the 5,000 frontliners that will be allowed to leave the country.

Maristela Abenojar, FNU president, said in a television interview that “the joy is not complete” because the 5,000 cap is “not the solution to entice nurses to work in the country.”

“What we are urging in our organization is for the government to provide the timely salaries and provide the compensation due for them so they can entice more workers to work here,” she added.

According to her, an average of 13,000 nurses go out of the country every year.

“If we only have 5,000 health workers to be allowed to work in other countries, how will the other categories of health professionals share the 5,000 allocations for working in other countries? This is not really very clear,” she said.

Administrator Bernard Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said they are still waiting for the IATF resolution that will guide them on how to implement the cap.

He gave assurance that even while the POEA has yet to receive the resolution, it will start accepting and processing the applications of frontliners.

“It will just be timely when we already have the (POEA) Governing Resolution, we will be issuing OEC (Overseas Employment Certificate),” Olalia said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III assured the public that the cap is only temporary and this will be increased to about 8,000 “depending on the country’s COVID-19 situation.” – Sheila Crisostomo

COVID-19 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH HEALTH WORKER
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