MANILA - Sen. Pia Cayetano on Friday urged the Senate to expand government scholarship programs for nursing students in future funding bills to entice more Filipino students to enroll in nursing courses.
While the Department of Health has a scholarship program for doctors and midwives, it does not have a similar project for nurses, Sen. Pia Cayetano said during budget debates in the Senate.
"At the current number of doctors, midwives and nurses that we have, it is the nurses that we'll never have enough of even in the next 10, 20 years," she said.
"What I want to stress is the importance of also supporting the allied health professionals... because the doctors cannot work on their own," she said.
Aside from nursing programs, the government should also "support the growth" of Filipinos who seek to become laboratory technicians and other professions in the medical field, she said.
"But maybe not in this budget because I know we are having much difficulty," she said, referring to the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget, which is dedicated to funding the government's COVID-19 response programs.
Congress recently passed the Doktor Para sa Bayan Act which mandates the national government provide medical scholarships to ensure that there would be enough doctors in the country. The law has yet to cover scholarships for nursing courses.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier urged the government to hike nurses' salaries, including those from the private sector.
"Ang mahal maging nurse. Ang hirap maging nurse tapos susuweldo ka lang ng P10,000 . . . If I will be asked, I will strongly recommend na ipataas," he added.
(It is so costly to be a nurse. It is so hard to be a nurse and then they will only receive P10,000.)
The minimum base pay of government nurses was raised in 2020 to salary Grade 15 amounting to at least P32,000, from salary Grade 11 or at least P22,000.
But private nurses receive an "insultingly low" monthly average salary of P5,000 to P10,000, below the minimum wage, according to the Filipino Nurses United, a nationwide union of nurses.