ON January 2, 2021, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed on Filipino nurse Charito Romano the British Empire Medal for her outstanding work at Arbrook House Care Home in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Queen recognized Romano, who tirelessly worked together with her fellow health-care workers to make sure that no one in the care home would be infected. All their efforts paid off when it was declared that Arbrook House remained Covid-free.
According to a March 2019 report on Britain’s National Health Service workplace diversity, there are close to 19,000 Filipinos serving in the UK’s public health system either as medical professionals, such as nurses and allied health professionals, or as support staff.
Nursing graduates from the Philippines who are seeking to practice their profession in America have increased by 147 percent, a member of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Educationsaid. Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said a total of 3,714 nursing graduates indicated their desire to practice their profession in America by taking the US licensure examination for the first time from January to March this year (Read, “PHL nursing grads who are eyeing US practice have risen 147%–solon,” in the BusinessMirror, June 21, 2022).
For the longest time, the Philippines has been supplying the world with quality and experienced nurses. According to the 2021 Department of Health data, out of the country’s 915,219 registered nurses, 316,415 have already migrated.
The country should still have a surplus of nurses. However, the government has employed only 65,895 nurses for a population of 110 million. At the height of the pandemic, the DOH hired around 7,000 contract of service (3-month-contractual) nurses and other health workers.
The World Health Organization (WHO), in its State of the World’s Nursing report, has projected that without needed action, “there will be a shortfall of 4.6 million nurses worldwide by 2030.” In the Philippines, the WHO said the shortfall of nurses is expected to reach 249,843 by 2030, unless greater investment is made now to retain them in the local health sector.
The Filipino Nurses United, a national organization of nurses fighting for nurses’ rights, said the country needs health workers, including nurses who compose 71 percent of the Philippine health workforce. However, many hospitals abroad prefer to hire Filipino nurses who are known for their work ethic, loyalty, compassion and dedication to caring for the sick and elderly. FNU said it encourages our nurses to serve our countrymen. “However, we support their aspiration to fulfill their dreams for their families, especially if it is a matter of survival from deep economic hardships.”
The FNU said it has been proposing measures to address the issue of exodus or massive migration of nurses.“First, the basics: decent living wage for nurses of P50,000 entry salary in both public and private sectors, safe nurse to patient ratio that could address the problem of severe and chronic understaffing, and regularize all contractual nurses including job order nurses, Nurse Deployment Program nurses, and contract of service nurses.”
Out of 172,589 locally employed nurses, the FNU said 106,694 private sector nurses are being paid a low wage of P537 per day in the NCR, and much lower in the regions. In the government sector, though nurses have relatively higher pay, they suffer from work and patient overload in the same way that private sector nurses do. FNU said a large percentage of government-employed nurses do not have regular positions, no benefits and no security of tenure.
The FNU said incentives such as benefits that can further motivate health workers to stay on are extremely lacking, inadequate or delayed. It said 60 percent of health workers have yet to receive their mandated Covid benefits and compensation. This adds up to the extreme frustration of nurses who put their lives on the line, especially during the pandemic.
FNU said the government needs to increase the wages of all nurses to P50,000 entry salary, to hire more nurses with regular positions to address the understaffing, and regularize all contractual nurses. It said “these measures will help decrease the number of nurses from leaving—either the hospital, the nursing profession, or the country.”