MANILA - Nurse Carmela Luisa Tan is among thousands of healthcare workers appealing for the government to totally lift the ban on their deployment for better opportunities abroad.
Government had barred the deployment of Filipino healthcare workers at the onset of the pandemic. Only those with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 were allowed to leave the country.
Tan, a member of the group PrisoNurses affected by the ban, said she has been unemployed since February as she hoped to be deployed by March, when the country went on lockdown to contain the pandemic.
She is set to be deployed soon but calls for the total lifting of the ban for all nurses. She cited the case of a farmer's daughter who is stranded in Manila and cannot tell her father that she has yet to be deployed.
"We are appealing for the total lifting of the ban dahil hindi basta-basta ang pinagdaanan naming proseso...We have already done our part. We served for several years already, taking into consideration na low-paying ang jobs namin," she told ANC.
(The process we went through was not easy.)
"We felt that we lack the support we needed from government. We’re only .01 pct of nurses who passed in the last few years."
Due to her unemployment, Tan received no benefits when she contracted COVID-19 and no assistance when 3 other family members were infected and resulted in the death of her mother-in-law.
"Ako as a healthcare worker nahirapan po ako maghanap ng hospital para maipagamot ang mother-in-law ko. Di ko man lang nagampananan ang trabaho ko bilang healthcare worker, hindi ko siya naisalba," she said.
(As a healthcare worker, it was hard to find hospitals where my mother-in-law can be treated. I was not able to fulfill my duty as a healthcare worker, I was not able to save her.)
"Wala po tayong nagawa sa part na 'yun (I could not do anything). Siguro naisip ko (I think), I’m better off, my skills and capabilities as a healthcare worker is better off at another country where we are appreciated."
Maristela Abenojar, president of the group Filipino Nurses United, said there were "more than enough nurses" in the country, citing some 200,000 unemployed nurses here.
"We have substantial evidence that we have enough resources in the country. There’s no reason to prevent our nurses who already have their papers, documents ready to be deployed in other countries," she told ANC in a separate interview.
Tan said there were other ways to show patriotism and nationalism after Health Secretary Francisco Duque appealed to nurses' "sense of patriotism."
"Yung OFWs they still go back to the Philippines basta makapagipon lang sila nang sapat. They still go back here, they miss that fact na we still want to work here at the end of the day," she said.
(OFWs still go back to the Philippines after saving enough money. They still go back here, they miss that fact that we still want to work here at the end of the day.)
It is government officials who should show their patriotism by allowing nurses take better opportunities abroad, Abenojar said.
"Dapat ipakita ng government officials 'yung kanilang pagiging patriotic. Sana maisip nila ang kalagayan ng lahat ng mamamayan. May mga pamilya rin sila (nurses) dito at sila rin ay naaapektuhan," she said.
(Government officials should be patriotic and think of the situation of all Filipinos. Nurses have families here who are also affected.)
"Wag natin pigilan, ang kapalit nito ay thousands of families ay magugutom."
(Let's not prohibit them from leaving, this will result in thousands of families facing hunger.)
Nurses who stay and volunteer in the COVID-19 fight have no assurances from government that they would have regular jobs after the pandemic, Tan said.
"Sabi nga po prioritization lang ang maio-offer ng DOH, walang kasiguraduhan they will be having their jobs," she said.
(The DOH said they can only offer prioritization but cannot give assurance they will be having their jobs.)