Nurses’ group urges ILO to probe work standard violations

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Nurses� group urges ILO to probe work standard violations
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 — A group of nurses is urging the International Labor Organization-High-Level Tripartite Mission (ILO-HLTM) to look into possible violations of work standards in the nursing profession.

The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) said that after consulting several nurse administrators from various health care facilities, it found out that nurses suffer from understaffing.

“They attend to 20 to 50 patients per shift, thus working 12 hours to 16 hours without overtime pay,” the group said in a statement.

It added that this is contrary to the Department of Health (DOH)’s nurse-to-patient ratio standard of one nurse to 12 patients per duty shift in the general ward, where patients require a minimum level of care.

“There are around 36,000 government nurses who are contractuals or are called job order nurses or Nurse Deployment Program nurses for an average of two to 10 years,” FNU vice president Eleanor Nolasco also said.

“Being contractuals, with contracts renewable in six months to one year, they are prevented from being vocal of their grievances or from joining associations or unions for fear of not being rehired or arbitrarily terminated,” Nolasco added.

At present, around 10,000 DOH nurses are set to lose their jobs, according to the FNU.

“During the height of the COVID-19 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 and lack of benefits in spite of getting sick and exposed to COVID-19 in performance of duty,” the group said.

“Labor standards on work hours, nurse-to-patient ratio and security of tenure are basic nurses’ rights that have been violated. This sad plight has led to further massive migration of nurses to other countries, which offer better pay and work conditions,” Nolasco said.

“It is in this light that the FNU is seeking the intervention of the ILO-HLTM on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Rights to Organize Convention No. 87,” she added.

The ILO Mission, which started yesterday, will be held until Jan. 27 in Manila.

Meanwhile, DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted that they cannot prevent the country’s health workers from leaving the country.

“Because that is their right to find the most productive jobs for them including those offering them higher salaries,” Vergeire said at an earlier press briefing.

“What the government is doing now is that we are proposing to standardize the salaries between private and public health workers so that there will be no distinction and it becomes competitive across the different cadres of our health workers,” she added.

DOH officials are trying to study how they can further improve the benefits of health care workers, according to the official.

“There are also scholarships that we would be working on right now so that we could also develop and try to reproduce again these cadres that we will need in the future,” she said. ”We are doing all these so that we can further incentivize and encourage our health care workers to stay ... and serve the country.”

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