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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Hospital manpower shortage

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Hospital manpower shortage

Despite the easing of restrictions to revive the economy, there is general agreement that the pandemic is far from over. So every effort must be made to keep, if not increase, the health professionals who are manning the COVID frontlines.

Unfortunately, the exodus of healthcare workers particularly nurses continues, and is expected to increase as deployment restrictions are eased, according to hospital operators. The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. has warned that in the past three weeks alone, its members have lost about five percent of their nurses. PHAPI warned that at the rate nurses are leaving for jobs overseas, health facilities in the country could be paralyzed within six months.

In this unprecedented public health crisis, healthcare workers have faced the highest risk – not only of getting COVID but also infecting members of their household. Over 100 doctors, nurses and other HCWs have died of COVID, according to official records. The infection risks combined with the long hours and modest pay have led to HCW shortages in both private and government hospitals.

These days there are doctors who have confined their practice to telemedecine to avoid infection. Among nurses, many have opted not to work at all during the pandemic; an estimated 250,000 nurses are unemployed, according to nursing organizations. Many are waiting for the green light to work overseas, where they face the same pandemic risks, but under better working conditions including compensation that can be up to 10 times greater than what they can get in the Philippines.

A limited nursing deployment ban is in place, but people cannot be prevented indefinitely from seeking greener pastures outside their country. There is a strong global demand for health workers amid the pandemic. While efforts are undertaken to improve the working environment for HCWs, there should be sustained effort to ease the COVID burden on hospitals.

PHAPI says severe and critical COVID cases are up by 12 to 15 percent. The group said critical care supplies are also running out in the Visayas and Mindanao, where Delta-driven infections remain high. Health professionals have expressed concern over the easing of restrictions to revive the economy, with weak enforcement of COVID safety protocols.

Even without the pandemic, the country needs doctors, nurses and other health workers. Stakeholders must discuss ways of encourging them to continue working in the country, and attracting more to join the sector.

COVID-19
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