MANILA - A nurses' group has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to revoke the deployment ban on health workers.
In a letter posted on its Facebook page, ANG NARS Party-list cited the "systemic oppression" being experienced by health workers in the Philippines as the main reason why a lot of them want to work abroad.
"Tatay Digong, for decades, health workers have been subject to systematic oppression through low salary, false volunteerism, lack of benefits, contractualization, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic: discrimination and violence. We are all college graduates and license holders, yet many of us are still contractuals and job orders who receive below minimum wage and no security of tenure," said Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, founding president of ANG NARS Inc.
The group added Filipino health workers do not have any choice but to go abroad to provide a better life for their families.
"We had no choice but to seek foreign employment if we want provide a decent life for our families. But now even that choice is taken away from us. Although temporary, this ban on the deployment of migrant health care workers has obstructed thousands of life-changing opportunities that may be lost forever. Becoming an OFW takes years of planning and sacrifice, including spending a fortune just for a chance for a better future," Samaco-Paquiz added.
For ANG NARS, Filipino health workers will be better protected abroad despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"You said in a press conference that your “only argument” was to prevent health workers to go abroad and come back in a coffin. Yet statistics show that health workers in other countries are five times less likely to be infected with COVID-19 due to their better working conditions," Samaco-Paquiz said.
"Health workers aiming to be OFWs have long been dissatisfied and disenfranchised from our health system. Many among us would rather stay at home or find other means of employment instead of working where there is a severe lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) coupled with low salary," she added.
The group likewise said that should the government keep health workers within the country, then they should be given competitive salaries and benefits so they would choose to stay.
"If the government wants to keep our health workers within the country, then the Philippines must offer internationally competitive salaries, benefits, and protection so we will choose to stay, instead of being forced to," Samaco-Paquiz said.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in April suspended the deployment of doctors, nurses and health care workers abroad to preserve its frontline force against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the government lifted the deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers, allowing land-based or sea-based overseas Filipino workers to seek employment in another country as long as they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge of the risks of going overseas.
Meanwhile, only Filipino health care workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 are allowed to leave the country.
As of May 18, a total of 2,315 health workers have been infected with COVID-19, with 974 recoveries.
As of Wednesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 13,221 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 842 deaths and 2,932 recoveries.