MANILA - Citing low wages and poor working conditions in the Philippines, a group of nurses on Thursday reiterated its appeal to the government to allow more medical workers to work abroad next year, if not to fully lift the overseas deployment ban.
Filipino Nurses United secretary-general Jocelyn Andamo said they hoped the government's new policy of granting only 5,000 nurses to work overseas starting January 2021 would be temporary as it could bring a devastating impact on their livelihoods.
"We hope they'll be adjusting the number of cap. Many nurses will be applying abroad especially now that we still have many issues and problems with our profession [here in the Philippines]," she told ANC's "Matters of Fact."
On average, there are at least 13,000 nurses who leave for abroad each year, Andamo said, as many still face delayed salaries, inadequate benefits, non-payment of hazard pay and have no security of tenure in the country.
Due to supposed scant protection against COVID-19, many nurses are still getting infected with the virus, she added.
Latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed nurses account for most number of health workers with coronavirus with 4,258 cases. Seventeen of them have died from the disease.
"With these issues, nurses are not encouraged or enticed to work and stay here in the Philippines," Andamo said.
"We'd like to reiterate our appeal and call to the government [that] the issues of nurses should be adequately, immediately responded to so that more nurses will be encouraged to work in the Philippines."
Andamo stressed that the deployment cap on nurses would be "unnecessary, irrational and unjust" as the country had over 200,000 unemployed or underemployed nurses.
"They are just waiting to be tapped and maximized in order so they can be part of this COVID-19 response," she added.
Andamo also urged the government to be "clear and rational" with their guidelines amid continuous changes in policies over the deployment ban since the start of pandemic.
"It's really a roller coaster of emotions the nurses have experienced. Sobrang mental anguish at paghihirap ang nangyayari sa kanila (They have suffered too much mental anguish and hardship)," she said.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had said the deployment cap on nurses would be applicable only to new hires. Those returning to their jobs abroad are allowed to leave the country, he added.
"The cap is subject to regular review. For example, if the pandemic slows down, we may increase it. We just want to make sure the time won't come when COVID-19 worsens and our nurses and medical workers are in abroad," he said.