Fears that Filipino nurses and health workers will no longer be hired abroad due to the prolonged deployment ban are “far-fetched”, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Thursday, as he assured that countries will continue to prefer them over other nationalities.
Bello gave the assurance during the hearing of Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) proposed 2021 budget when senators quizzed them about the temporary suspension of overseas deployment of medical workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Joel Villanueva and Nancy Binay reiterated the appeal of Filipino nurses for the total lifting of the deployment ban.
“Naiintindihan ko naman na kailangan talagang balansehin ‘yong pangangailangan natin (I understand that we really have to balance it with our needs) but let us also be conscious na baka sa sobrang tagal nating sinara at din pinayagan ‘yong nurses natin (that if we hold off the deployment of our nurses for a long time), baka wala na silang trabaho puntahan abroad kasi nakahire na (they might end up not being employed abroad anymore because employers have already hired) from other countries,” Binay raised.
“I admire your advocacy, senator, pero alam niyo, ‘yong fear na mawalan sila ng trabaho (but the fear that they will lose jobs), that is very far fetched,” Bello responded.
“Kasi lahat ng mga countries (Because all of the countries), keep telling us to send our nurses. In short, your honor, our nurses are the most referred nurses in the world,” he pointed out.
Bello said at least three foreign ambassadors have approached him and asked to send Filipino nurses in their respective countries. Several embassies have also reached out to him about this request, he said.
“Talagang mahal na mahal ang ating mga nurses (They really love our nurses). Kasi ang sisipag ng mga nurses natin kaya hindi po tayo maawalan ng (Because our nurses are very hardworking so we will not lose) market when it comes to health care workers,” he maintained.
The DOLE secretary, defending the government’s decision, said the Duterte administration maintains a “very open mind” to send nurses abroad, but said they have to make sure that the Philippines will not run out of experienced and skilled medical workers should the coronavirus outbreak worsen.
Citing the varying government data on the actual number of registered Filipino health workers and their classifications based on experience, he said they were “worried” that less experienced health workers will be left to attend to the country’s medical needs.
“That’s why we cannot afford an unlimited deployment of our nurses. We just have to wait,” Bello said.
“We will consider” the proposed lifting of the deployment ban once the COVID-19 situation has improved, he told the health workers.
The government earlier suspended the deployment of Filipino medical and allied health professionals abroad in a bid to augment the country’s human resources for COVID-19 response.
Previously, only those with perfected contracts as of March 8 were allowed to be deployed until last month, when President Duterte said health workers who have completed documents as of August 31, 2020 may also leave the country.