By Ellson Quismorio
Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor said Congress may have to double to P60,000 the entry-level monthly pay of nurses in both public and private hospitals to woo new practitioners and encourage old ones to stay put.
This, as he warned Sunday that the Philippines might face a severe shortage of nurses in the future as an offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We foresee wealthy nations around the world rushing to expand the capacities of their public health systems and stepping up their recruitment of Philippine-educated nurses once the COVID-19 pandemic is suppressed,” Defensor, House Committee on Health vice chairperson, said.
Defensor made the statement after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) temporarily barred the deployment of nurses and 12 other categories of allied medical professionals/technicians as the country grapples with the spread of the new acute respiratory disease.
However, the lawmaker expressed doubts that the government would be able to stop nurses from seeking greener pasture abroad as soon as the public health emergency is over.
“The right to travel is protected by the Constitution, and all Filipino professionals are entitled to take their skills to wherever they may find the greatest reward,” he noted.
But Defensor said that significantly hiking local nurses’ pay could sway them from leaving.
“The initial figure we are looking at is P60,000 monthly, which is more or less the same starting pay being offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Filipino nurses, without counting fringe benefits,” he said.
“If we can’t stop our nurses from going to North America or Europe, perhaps we can dissuade at least those aspiring to work in the Middle East,” he added,
At present, nurses in hospitals run by the Department of Health (DOH) receive a starting monthly pay of P32,053, which will steadily increase every year until it reaches P36,619 by January 2023 under the new Salary Standardization Law for civil servants.
Adding to the problem is Defensor’s observation that the country’s production of new nurses has slowed down.
“Based on figures from the Professional Regulation Commission, they issued only 31,580 new nursing licenses between 2017 and 2019, or an average of just 10,526 every year,” Defensor said.
“If just half of the 10,526 new licensees leave the country every year, we won’t even have enough new nurses to replace those who are retiring in the years ahead,” pointed out the former Palace chief-of-staff.
The increased demand for Filipino nurses will likely come not only from the United States but also from affluent European nations hit hardest by the pandemic and whose health systems have been pushed to their limits, Defensor said.
“They will surely be under extreme pressure to plug the gaps in their hospitals and nursing homes for the aged post-COVID-19,” Defensor said.
Older men and women in America and Europe have been bearing the brunt of the new coronavirus illness, which currently has no vaccine or working treatment.