ILO urged to look into violations of Filipino nurses’ rights

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
ILO urged to look into violations of Filipino nurses� rights
This photo taken on September 16, 2022 shows a nurse walking along a hallway before entering an intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients at a hospital in Manila.
AFP / Kevin Tristan Espiritu

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:14 p.m.) — An association of nurses called on the International Labour Organization-High Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines to examine the violations of nursing workforce standards in the country, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the Filipino Nurses United stressed that “labor standards on work hours, nurse-to-patient ratio and security of tenure are basic nurses’ rights that have been violated.”

FNU said that understaffing in healthcare facilities forces nurses to handle 20 to 50 patients per shift and work for up to 16 hours without overtime pay. The nurse-to-patient ratio set by the Department of Health is one nurse to 12 patients per duty in the general ward.

Nurses in private hospitals reportedly get paid around P12,000 a month, while those employed in government-run institutions are entitled to Salary Grade 15 or just over P35,000. Pay is generally much lower in areas outside Metro Manila.

According to the group, around 36,000 government nurses are contractual workers who are prevented from voicing out their grievances, and opt not to join associations or unions for fear of being terminated or of not being rehired.

It noted that around 10,000 DOH nurses will be losing their jobs.

"During the height of the pandemic, nurses have faced great risks in nursing functions as they perform with inadequate protection, excessive work hours due to understaffing, and further exploited with no leaves or lack of benefits in spite of getting sick and exposed to COVID-19 in performance of duty," FNU said.

“This sad plight has led to massive migration of nurses to other countries which offer better pay and work conditions,” it added.

To try to keep healthcare workers at home, the DOH proposed to standardize the salaries of medical professionals in public and private facilities and improve their benefits.

The FNU also sought the support of ILO in its work of organizing nurses and advocating for their rights, citing the vilification campaign against the association.

Labor agenda

In the 15-Point Labor Agenda crafted by 45 labor unions and workers' associations that was released in November, workers called on government to hire more healthcare professionals to increase the capacity of the healthcare system and to allow the assignment of at least one doctor in each barangay.

"The job vacancies at the Department of Health should be filled and there should be more plantilla items created to address the gaping lack of human resources in the department," the unions also said, adding the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers should be amended to include Barangay Health Workers.

"The pandemic showed how barangay health workers play important roles as frontlines of the government’s efforts to prevent and control the transmission of COVID-19 at the community level," they said.

The ILO-HLTM takes place from January 23 to 26.

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