In need of nurses and nurses in need

Ernesto F. Herrera

Ernesto F. Herrera

We congratulate the 10,975 applicants who passed the recent Nurse Licensure Examination and wish these new nurses luck in finding jobs. They certainly would need it. It is not the best of times to be a nurse nowadays, in the country or elsewhere.

Demand for nurses in the United States and Canada, once ideal destinations for our country’s nurses, have slowed down since 2006.

The CNN recently reported that 43 percent of fresh graduate nurses in the US have not landed a job upon 18 months of receiving their license.

The US is supposedly implementing a “no new nursing grads” policy in their hospitals, meaning they want nurses with experience rather than fresh graduates. No visas have been made available for foreign nurses to enter and work in the US since hospitals, due to the recession, have stopped hiring new nurses and just kept their existing and ‘experienced’ nursing staff.

Demand for nurses in the United Kingdom has also remained stagnant for almost two years now. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said the UK has not opened new job opportunities for nurses aside from a few, old job orders.

Many Filipino nurses have been forced to look for other job opportunities in other countries but have few options.

Japan, for instance, is accepting Filipino nurses and caregivers. But since the Philippines started deploying health workers to Japan in 2009 under the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement, only 15 nurses and one caregiver have passed the stringent Japanese licensure exams.

The local labor market is just as tight. Nurses are now the nation’s second-largest group of professionals after teachers. The country’s large oversupply of nurses has contributed not only to unemployment among their ranks but also to the downward pressure on their wages.

Under the Nursing Law of 2002, or Republic Act 9173, the floor pay of public nurses is pegged at Salary Grade 15 or a monthly rate of at least P22,688. That pay grade though is rarely followed by government hospitals because they simply do not have the money. Even the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is paying their nurses only about P15,000 monthly. Private sector nurses are just as underpaid.

The Professional Regulation Commission estimates that there are at least 300,000 unemployed nurses in the country.

Ironically, we have many communities where Filipinos die without ever seeing a health professional. The recent measles outbreak in Metro Manila proved that even urban dwellers lack the requisite vaccinations that could easily be administered by a nurse in a barangay health center.

We probably need nurses in our hospitals and health centers now more than ever.

The World Health Organization recommends a nurse-patient ratio of one nurse per four patients but even our biggest hospitals can’t meet that. Citing official data, Universal Health Care Group advocacy coordinator Alvin Cloyd Dakis said the ratio stands at 1:25 for the Philippine General Hospital. Hospitals in the provinces have more dismal figures, such as 1:45 in Davao del Sur.

The government should put more money in the country’s health program to hire our unemployed nurses and put them to work in urban and rural communities that lack primary health care.

We urge Congress to pass such measures that would help our nurses practice their vocation and put the long hours they spent studying to good use, such as House Bill 4582, which seeks to establish the Special Program for the Employment of Nurses in Urban and Rural Services.

The bill proposes to mobilize at least 10,000 nurses every year for deployment to poor and underserved communities. They would each serve for six months and get a monthly stipend not lower than P24,887.

Other amendments to the Nursing Law may also be necessary to give jobs to the growing number of idle nurses and increase the nurses’ salaries in our hospitals and health centers.

By helping our nurses we would also help our fellow Filipinos get the health care they deserve. Let’s help them help us.


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1 Comment

  1. there’s quite a number of filipino nurses working as caregivers in canada, toronto in particular. the pay is not bad and with a chance of becoming a canadian immigrant. this
    can be an option and of big help