MANILA - House Committee on Health chairperson Quezon Fourth District Rep. Angelina Helen Tan on Monday urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to lift the moratorium it imposed on nursing programs as a long-term solution to the scarcity of human resources for health.
In a privilege speech Monday afternoon, Tan recalled that in 2010, CHED issued Memorandum Order No. 32 to impose a moratorium on the opening of all undergraduate and graduate programs in Nursing, Business Administration, Teacher Education, Hotel and Restaurant Management and Information Technology effective school year 2011-2012.
The moratorium on nursing included the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), Master of Arts/Master in Nursing (MAN/MN) and Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhDN).
"Said moratorium was anchored on the proliferation of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) offering these undergraduate and graduate programs, which if allowed to continue unabated, would result to the deterioration of the quality of graduates of these five (5) higher education programs. At that time, the Department of Labor and Employment was of the opinion that the moratorium was intended to mitigate potential oversupply of graduates in certain disciplines, and in the process, to encourage incoming students to opt for courses that offer the best chances of employment after graduation," she said.
"Mr. Speaker, the Philippine Nurses Association also supported the moratorium on nursing programs claiming that, as of 2010, up to 200,000 registered nurses were either unemployed or underemployed. The number of nursing schools had mushroomed in the country from 172 in 2000 to 491 in 2004 due to the increased demand for nurses in countries like the United States and United Kingdom," Tan said.
However, Tan said that 10 years after the implementation of CMO No. 32 and with the country’s COVID-19 pandemic experience, CMO 32 bears revisiting.
"The World Health Organization, on April 7, 2020 called for an urgent investment in nursing as the COVID-19 pandemic puts need for nurses into sharp relief. Mr. Speaker, but, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a global shortage of nurses was already projected as highlighted in a WHO report," she said.
"The WHO report State of the World’s Nursing 2020 projects that, without action, there will be a shortfall of 4.6 million nurses worldwide by 2030. In the Philippines, the projected shortfall of nurses is expected to be 249,843 by 2030, unless greater investment is made now to retain them in the Philippine health sector. Dr. Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, has emphasized that governments across the Western Pacific Region must invest in strengthening their nursing workforce as an essential part of preparedness for health challenges such as emerging infectious diseases, but also the health challenges brought about by climate change, ageing populations and a growing burden of noncommunicable diseases," Tan added.
Tan cited pre-COVID-19 pandemic data, showing that the world does not have a global nursing workforce commensurate with the universal health coverage and SDG targets.
"Over 80% of the world’s nurses are found in countries that account for half of the world’s population. The global shortage of nurses, estimated to be 6.6 million in 2016, had decrease slightly to 5.9 million nurses in 2018. Further, Mr. Speaker, the aforesaid report states that to address the shortage by 2030 in all countries, the total number of nursing graduates would need to increase by 8% per year on average, alongside an improved capacity to employ and retain these graduates. Without this increase, current trends indicate 36 million nurses by 2030, leaving a projected needs-based shortage of 5.7 million, primarily in the African, South-East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions," she said.
Tan cited data from CHED also showed a decline in enrollment from a range of 461,981 enrollees in academic year 2006-2007 down to 37,000 in 2018.
"The number of enrollees before 2012 never fell below 100,000 per year but from 2013 to present, the average was just about 50,000 enrollees. Correspondingly, the number of graduates which averaged to 75,000 from 2004-2012 dropped to an average of 18,750 from 2013 to the present. Our 2016-2020 Human Resources for Health (HRH) Statistics as of December 31, 2020 shows that we have a total of 89,886 nurses, 34,840 of which are working in private hospitals, 30,396 in public hospitals and 24,650 in primary health care; and a ratio of 8-9 nurses per 10,000 population," she said.