VP on 'nurse for vaccines' proposal: Improve local working conditions instead
A health worker takes a break after visiting suspected COVID cases in Tondo, Manila.
The STAR/KJ Rosales

VP on 'nurse for vaccines' proposal: Improve local working conditions instead

(Philstar.com) - February 28, 2021 - 1:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Government should focus on improving working conditions in the Philippines to keep healthcare workers from leaving instead of dangling their deployment in exchange for vaccines, Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday.

The labor department's proposal to send more health workers to the United Kingdom and Germany for donations of 600,000 doses of COVID-19 jabs did not sit well with many, with the agency later on clarifying that they did not intend to make it look as if nurses were being commodified.

Over DZXL, Robredo said that while the country needs the vaccines, efforts to procure doses should not be made at the expense of having more Filipinos leave home.

"(It's a bit sad because have we grown that desperate?" she said in Filipino on her weekly radio program. 

"In fact, our main target should be to improve the environment at home for our health workers so they no longer have to leave the country. Many are saying they are heroes and that's correct. But how are we treating them?"

Filipinos have been seeking employment abroad for decades and overseas remittances play a significant role in the economy.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the Duterte administration halted the deployment of health workers overseas citing the need for more medical personnel to tend to the growing number of those contracing the coronavirus.

The cap was lifted in November 2020 and was replaced by a cap of 5,000 allowed to leave annually.

The UK and Germany have sought an exemption from the cap, saying there is a high demand for nurses because of aging polulations.

Although Filipino workers here and abroad are hailed as heroes, the government has not taken care of them well, Robredo said.

"If we truly appreciate them, then we should treat them well," she said. We keep thanking them but gratitude should not just be in words."

The health department said too that it was not consulted on the labor department's plan to deploy more health workers in exchange for vaccines.

The Palace said President Rodrigo Duterte did not know about the proposal but said that "if that means we get a bigger supply, why not?"

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