Who cares for nurses?
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - December 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Nurses care for people. But not just normal healthy people who go about their daily lives with unobtrusive regularity. Nurses care for people with health and medical care needs. It may come almost naturally to overlook and even ignore the role nurses play in health and medical care because of the important and crucial role doctors have in the lives of the sick, infirm, elderly, and lonely.

But try imagining a world without nurses. Society, of course, may not collapse in the absence of nurses. But it will be a pretty difficult, stressful, and messy world if all nurses suddenly vanish one day. In other words, there is pretty much to be thankful for that nurses are around to do the things many people would find great difficulty doing even for their own relatives.

And yet how is the Philippines, the only predominantly Christian country in Asia, treating its nurses? It comes as no surprise that Filipino nurses would rather work overseas if they can and care for patients who do not speak their language nor even share the same color of their skin. Because in their own country, they are being treated like shit.

In the Philippines, employers both in government and in the private sector overwork their nurses --- some are made to work extended working hours for successive days on a stretch --- and then pay them peanuts. Nurses are being regarded as robots who can work and work and work and need only a little oiling to keep going. Nurses' employers demand so much and give back so little it is almost like rape.

But nurses are people too. In fact, they are no ordinary people. They are highly-trained professionals who must pass stringent board exams to get a license. They go through four years of what has become a very expensive college course. Yet when they are hired, they are paid no more than what a driver for a small company gets. Not to disparage drivers, but getting a driver's license is a breeze. One doesn't even have to know how to drive.

To be sure, a new development has occurred that might make the lives of nurses working in government more bearable. The base monthly pay of government nurses may soon be something like P30,000. But this comes not because the heart of government bleeds for nurses. It was left with no choice when the Supreme Court ruled to place the wages of government nurses where they ought to be.

The big question now is what happens to the salaries of nurses in the private sector? Many, if not most, of these nurses are paid just a little over P10,000 a month. That is a pay that is oppressive, abusive, insulting, and humiliating. If government can regularly gift its employees, many of them lousy, lazy, arrogant, inefficient, corrupt, and downright undeserving, with fat bonuses, maybe it is time to take cause with private sector nurses.

Congress can pass a measure, following the Supreme Court's lead, adjusting the pay of private sector nurses so that even if it cannot be at par with those in government, it can at least be befitting of such a noble profession and deserving of the dignity God has endowed every human being. Every God-fearing Christian lawmaker in Congress should work to give the nurses who care for them in private hospitals better and more humane pay.


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