Lend nurses to COVID-19 hospitals, gov't agencies urged

Amid the dwindling capacity of hospitals and shortage of nurses in the country, the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) on Wednedsay, May 19, reiterated its appeal for reinforcement from nurses employed in government agencies who are doing "non-nursing jobs".

(Jansen Romero/MANILA BULLETIN FIle Photo)

PHA president Dr. Jaime Almora told the Senate economic affairs' committee that major hospitals in the country "have been overwhelmed and have reached their breaking point".

He said that while the surge of COVID-19 cases is already "slackening" and some hospitals still have available beds, the capabilities of COVID-19 health facilities are "continously diminishing".

Aside from the increase in coronavirus patients, the lack of manpower, particularly nurses, is also taking a toll on the country's health sector.

Private hospitals, for instance, now only have 30 to 50 percent of their usual nursing manpower, Almora said.

Among the several factors he cited during the Senate hearing that caused the decline in the country's supply of nurses, Almora noted the exodus of Filipino nurses from hospitals to the uniformed services.

The nurses were lured by the steep increase in the salary of military, police and other uniformed personnel during the Duterte administration.

"As much as 9,000 new policemen are now nurses in the PNP (Philippine National Police), doing non-nursing jobs," Almora said.

He recalled that the PHA, however, lobbied against the signing of a previous bill increasing the wages of entry-level nurses to P26,192, citing the lack of budget and the possible hike in the cost of health care in the country to pay for the increased salaries.

Former President Benigno Aquino III vetoed the wage hike proposal in June, 2016.

"We appeal for reinforcement from agencies of government employing nurses doing non-nursing jobs to lend their nurses to the hospitals," Almora appealed.

Besides the exodus to uniformed services, he also noted the migration of nurses, as countries have again started an "agressive" recruitment of nurses to boost their own health sector.

Almora also appealed on the government to launch a program increasing the number of nursing schools and student enrollees in the country, "if only to assure supply of nurses in the coming years."

He believed that more nursing graduates will still opt to migrate and work abroad. He projected that the lack in nurses "will go on beyond 2023."