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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Exodus continues

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Exodus continues

A new administration comes into office this week with a devastating pandemic far from over. Dealing with the continuing COVID threat includes confronting the renewed exodus of healthcare workers particularly nurses for greener pastures overseas.

Last week the Filipino Nurses United issued a statement renewing its members’ call for higher salaries, regularization of contractual health frontliners and more hiring to prevent overwork. The FNU says that even in the National Capital Region where the biggest hospitals are concentrated, over 100,000 nurses in the private sector are paid only the minimum wage, while many more outside the NCR get even lower pay.

On the other hand, while nurses in government hospitals now have an entry-level pay of over P35,000 a month, they are often burdened by a heavier workload. The FNU noted that not all nurses in government facilities have regular positions and benefits.

Taking up nursing is not cheap; tuition and other expenses can eat up the life savings of parents. They will want not only to recoup their investment in a child’s education but also to see the nurse in the family make a decent living.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the serious health risks faced by health frontliners and their household members. It is understandable that healthcare workers would want remuneration for their work commensurate to the risks.

Because of the COVID health crisis, the government stopped the deployment of nurses, but the prohibition is gradually being eased. Not surprisingly, there has been a renewed steady stream of nurses and other healthcare workers leaving for better paying jobs overseas.

This is posing problems particularly for small hospitals with limited funds. Last year as two deadly COVID surges swept the country, even the biggest hospitals that can afford top rates for their medical staff were hit by resignations.

As of December 2021, the country had 915,291 registered nurses, but only 172,589 were working in government and private hospitals, according to the FNU. The group estimates that about 35 percent of the total registered nurses have left for greener pastures overseas, while another 32 percent are either not working or are underemployed. Many Philippine hospitals are now chronically understaffed, according to the nurses’ group.

The incoming administration reportedly wants to build more hospitals across the country. This plan will have to contend with the exodus of healthcare professionals.

COVID-19

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