Health group hits Arroyo's 'rural nurses' program


Posted at Feb 10 2009 09:50 AM | Updated as of Feb 10 2009 06:24 PM

The government should offer long-term solutions, not knee-jerk reactions, to the financial crisis currently affecting the economy, a group of health professionals said Tuesday.

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) Secretary General Geneve Rivera said short-term measures such as temporary and low-paying jobs will only cause bigger problems not only for workers, but also for the economy.

"The government should offer jobs which can actually provide for the daily needs of Filipinos and their families. It's not enough that they only provide jobs. It's not enough to give temporary and low-paying jobs for workers. Because at the end of the day, the problem will go back," Rivera said in an interview at ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."

Rivera made the statement in response to President Arroyo's launch on Monday of the Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS) program, which will provide employment to nurses from six months to one year in various provinces.

"It only provides temporary jobs for nurses. They are only given six months to one year to work. After that period, they won't have jobs again, and the provinces will again lack nurses and health care professionals," she said.

In the Multi-Sectoral Jobs Summit at the Heroes Hall in Malacañang, President Arroyo said the NARS program mainly targets fresh nursing graduates who have passed the board examination but lack work experience to find jobs abroad.

Those who will be hired under the program, the President said, will each receive P8,000 from the national government aside from a P2,000 stipend given by local governments to rural nurses. However, Rivera said such compensation is not enough for the qualified nurses.

"Our nurses will be getting very low wages. According to the Nursing Act of 2002, a nurse's beginning salary should be P15,000 or salary grade 15. The government's offer is P8000 from the national government, and a P2000 stipend from the local government. It's way too low. And we all know that the local government doesn't have enough budget to provide compensation," she said.

Pay cuts proposed to beat crisis

Meanwhile, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Edgardo Lacson expressed optimism towards the government's measures to ease the effects of the global economic downturn.

"The PCCI has always said that the solution (to this crisis) is not just one magic pill that applies to all companies. Our approach here is company to company, since they are faced with different situations. What's important is it (summit) provokes and inspires people to think of the problem together," Lacson said.

"Other things discussed in the summit may not be applicable to other companies, but there are a lot of good proposals which we can make use of. One of them is Vice President Noli de Castro's proposal to use the P80-billion stimulus fund from his housing project," he added.

Aside from stimulus packages, Lacson proposed wage cuts as a way to prevent massive layoffs, a measure which would not need government intervention.

"Wages should be cut from the company president to the rank-and-file. That's on the part of management. Owners should momentarily stop getting dividends, or at least reduce what they're getting this year to help the company. For employees who can afford to contribute to their company, they can cut their wages or opt for job rotation. There are many ways, each company can come up with its own way of coping with the crisis," he said.

"But there are a lot of proposals from the communique which could be copied and used. What's good is that the government has allotted almost P6 billion for a livelihood fund. It may not be enough, but it would certainly be helpful," he added.