Upgrade job offers for health workers -- Villanueva

Senator Joel Villanueva on Wednesday asked the Department of Health (DOH) to improve its offers for Filipino health care workers so they would be enticed to join its emergency hiring program.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Villanueva issued the appeal even as he maintained that the government should finally lift the deployment ban on medical and allied health workers abroad.

The chairman of the Senate labor committee said that aside from the low pay and unclear guidelines on the grant of hazard pay, the employment under the DOH's hiring program lasts only three months, 

" too short, since the pandemic won’t be over within that time frame, and not to mention the lack of security of tenure that the DOH offers. Para lang po silang biktima ng ‘endo’ (Like they were victims of end-of-contract scheme, too)," Villanueva said in a statement.

Citing industry data, the senator said Filipino nurses lag behind regional neighbors in terms of compensation with an average pay of P40,381 a month, the least within the ASEAN.

Meanwhile, nurses in Singapore are paid P236,400 a month on the average, he said.

He said working conditions and contracts should be upgraded to make it more commensurate to the risk involved.

Villanueva reiterated his appeal for the government to allow migrant health care workers to depart for work abroad.

"Supply of healthcare workers is not our government’s issue, rather its ability to put value on their work. There is no doubt that our healthcare workers will choose to stay and serve in our health centers and hospitals if they can be assured of job security and sufficient salaries and benefits,” he pointed out.

"We have noted, that between 2012 and 2018 alone, 148,832 Filipinos passed the licensure exam for nurses. This is more than double the total 65,108 nurses currently employed in private and public health facilities,” he added, citing data from the Department of Health (DOH).

The government suspended last month the deployment of the medical and allied health workers to other countries in an effort to boost the number of medical workforce responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exemptions were applied for health workers with perfected and signed work contracts as of March 8, as well as for "Balik-Manggagawa" workers, or those who have been working abroad but are only in the country vacation.

The Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases recently submitted to President Duterte its recommended options on how to go about the calls to lift the deployment ban for overseas health care workers.