Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has appealed for patience amid the clamor to lift the deployment ban on healthcare workers, stating that the government is sympathetic to their cause.
“We are very sympathetic to the cause of our medical workers. We know their dreams, frustration but we just have to be very very conscious of our responsibility,” Bello said in an online forum Wednesday.
“We might be forgetting the fact that we are under a health emergency situation. We really have to closely monitor the development of the pandemic because if we deploy without any control our medical workers, there could come a time that our own countrymen will have nobody to attend to them when they are infected with COVID-19,” he added.
In the same forum, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia advised the nursing sector to ask the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) to adjust the date of the cut off from March 8 to August 31 instead of requesting for the lifting of the deployment ban.
“My own personal view, instead of requesting for the lifting, why don’t we just ask for the adjustment of the date of the cut off. From March 8, let’s make it August 31,” he said.
“Maybe we can request through the intercession of the secretary,” added Olalia.
“Let’s take it slow(ly). It would be difficult to catch the IATF by surprise. The IATF is also subservient to the wishes of the President. The President, himself, does not want to (lift the ban),” he said.
It was last April when the POEA imposed a deployment ban for selected types of health workers citing the dwindling human resources in local hospitals and medical facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the list are: medical doctor/physician, nurse, microbiologist molecular biologist, medical technologist, clinical analyst, respiratory therapist, pharmacist, laboratory technician, X-ray/radiologic technician, nursing assistant/nursing aide, operator of medical equipment, supervisor of health services and personal care, and repairman of medical-hospital equipment.
The Inter-agency Task Force later ordered the exemption of healthcare workers with perfected and signed contract as of March 8 from the deployment ban imposed by the POEA.
Bello said such a proposal will have to be studied first, particularly on the number of healthcare workers that can be allowed to be deployed as the country is still under a national health crisis.
“We will see if we will extend it to August 31 and we will lose only about 2 to 5 thousand, maybe we can convince the IATF to consider the proposal. But if it goes beyond that, it might be difficult. I hope you understand,” he said.
“Giving the exemption for those who had completed their papers as of March 8 affected some 600 to 900. So, on my own personal assessment, we can afford to send them away. But if statistics will show that we will be sending about 50,000 nurses, that will be dangerous,” added Bello.
The labor chief said they will discuss the matter with the Philippine Nursing Association , Department of Health and Philippine Red Cross to know the number of nurses and if the country can already afford to send some of them abroad.