MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark that nurses should just join the police force if they wanted higher pay is “irrational” and an “evasion of responsibility,” a leader of health workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic said Tuesday.
Duterte in a taped speech on Sunday advised nurses: “Enter the police force. The salary is higher. If you remain a nurse outside, you only get about 8, 9, 10 [thousand pesos].”
“Ang agad na reaksyon namin d’yan ay isa 'yang evasion sa responsibility ng ating pamahalaan kasi ang amin pong sahod ay matagal na naming isinisigaw na dapat taasan,” said Filipino Nurses United president Maristela Abenojar.
(Our immediate reaction there is that is an evasion of responsibility by our government because we have long asked for our salary to be raised.)
Duterte, who has a known affinity for the troops, had raised the pay of police officers and soldiers early in his presidency.
“Iyong sinasabi n’yong challenge na mag-pulis na lang kami, hindi po ba ninyo nakita na kung mayroong sumagot at tumupad sa inyong challenge at sila’y mag-pulis, sinong maiiwan sa mga ospital? Hindi po iyon rational,” she told ANC.
(Your challenge the we should just join the police, don’t you see that if we make good on your challenge and they become policemen, who will be left in our hospitals? That is not rational.)
Nurses make up to 70 percent of the entire Philippine health care workforce, said Abenojar.
In some private hospitals, nurses earn only P10,000 monthly, she said.
Nurses who work in public hospitals, meanwhile, finally got last month a pay hike that raised their salaries to up to P32,000 following a delay of 18 years after the budget department issued a circular that implemented a 2002 law that raised their salary grade.
However, the circular contained a provision demoting some 48,000 nurses in what the budget department called “change in nomenclature,” said Abenojar.
The FNU has sought clarification on this twice and received no reply yet because the agency was on skeletal force, she said.
Duterte should be “objective” in addressing the demands of health workers, including fair wages, priority in testing for the novel coronavirus tests, safety gear, and hiring or additional frontliners for the pandemic, Abenojar said.
“Pangulong Duterte, hindi naman po namin ito hinihingi bilang isang self-serving interest. Ang panawagan nga po namin keep us alive, kaming mga health workers, so we can save lives,” she said.
“Kung kami po ang magkakasakit at kami ang mamamatay, sino pa ang mag-aalaga sa ating mga pasyente?”
(President Duterte, we are not asking this for a self-serving interest. Our appeal is keep us, health workers, alive so we can save lives. If we get sick and die, who will take care of our patients?)
Duterte has heeded the call of health workers to bring back Metro Manila under stricter quarantine measures to arrest a spike in COVID-19 cases that breached the 100,000-mark this weekend.
Abenojar said she hoped the government would use the 2-week MECQ or modified enhanced community quarantine of the capital and 4 surrounding provinces to focus "more on health and medical interventions."