THE Department of Health (DoH) will meet with the Department of Migrant Workers and the Department of Labor and Employment to discuss ways to create incentives for Filipino health care workers and urge them not to leave the country.

This comes as the country continues to experience a shortfall of health care workers, with a backlog of more than 106,000 nurses needed in both private and public hospitals across the country.

In a briefing on Thursday, Acting Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that she is set to meet with Migrant Workers Affairs Secretary Susan "Toots" Ople and Labor and Employment Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma to discuss the incentives they can offer to health care workers who will forego their deployment abroad.

"There were initial discussions on what could be the incentives for our health care workers for them not to leave the country and also ask these countries what would they offer in exchange for these incentives," Vergeire said.

She said that they will convince countries that deploy Filipino nurses to offer instead scholarships and exchange programs so that more Filipino health workers will have a "career path" for them to follow in the country.

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Vergeire also said that they do not want to expand the 7,500 annual health care worker deployment cap of the government.

She noted that the deployment of nurses abroad is the main reason why there are shortages of health care workers in health facilities.

She said that they are endorsing several bills in Congress that would give additional benefits to health care workers for them to remain in the country.

Among the bills being proposed by the DoH in Congress include the revision of the Magna Carta for Health-care Workers and the Salary Standardization Act for Health-care Workers to cover both public and private health facilities.

Aside from nurses, Vergeire said that they are also experiencing shortages of doctors, pharmacists, radiologic technicians, medical technologists, occupational therapists, midwives, physical therapists and dentists.

Vergeire has urged nurses and other health care workers to apply for plantilla positions in government health care facilities, which include 624 nurses, 1,332 midwives and 63 dentists.

"We call on nurses, midwives, dentists and other health care professionals to apply for these plantilla positions. We need your help so that our health care facilities will continue their operations," Vergeire said.