MANILA - Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Friday said around 600 to 900 Filipino nurses and medical workers are set to leave the country for work abroad.
"600-900 ito 'yung nakakumpleto na, posibleng makaalis na. I appealed to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) na kung maaring pahintulutan na silang makaalis,” Bello said in an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration earlier barred the deployment of Filipino health care workers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bello said the deployment ban has certain exemptions for nurses and medical workers who already have perfected and signed overseas employment contracts.
“Halimbawa, nakakuha ka na ng visa mo, ticket mo, meron ka nang verified employment contract sa pupuntahan mo at meron ka ng OEC pwede ka nang pumunta. Kasama d'yan ang tinatawag na Balik Manggagawa, mga medical workers na nagbakasyon pagkatapos inabutan ng lockdown, ‘di nakabalik,” he said.
The government wants to prevent an exodus of Filipino health workers in this time of pandemic where there is a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county. Recently, the overwhelmed medical sector had called for a 2-week "timeout" to recalibrate the pandemic measures due to surge in COVID-19 cases.
"'Yun ang worry natin, ang tinatanggap abroad ito 'yung mga skilled, mga experienced. In all probability, ang maiwan sa atin mga baguhan at wala pang experience. Yung ang worry ni Secretary Carlito Galvez at Secretary Francisco Duque ng health,” he said.
As of Thursday, the Philippines reported 178,022 cases of COVID-19, including 61,025 active cases. Of the total, 114,114 have recovered and 2,883 died.
Bello also urged private hospitals to do their share by providing higher compensation for nurses and medical workers to make them decide to stay in the Philippines instead of seeking employment abroad.
“Unang-una siguro is to appeal to these hospital na they should consider giving a higher compensation knowing the value of the services of their nurses and medical workers. Some of them work for 10 to 12 hours,” he said.
He cited instances wherein nurses who have already passed the board exams still pay private hospitals for their training before they could work there.
“Why? Because they claim they have to undergo training, that’s why they have to pay 'yung training fee. Hindi nila bina-value services ng nurses,” he said.
He added that labor employment officers at DOLE are even paid more than nurses.
“How come ang mga nurses na ito, nagdaan sa napakahirap at napakagastos na edukasyon, pumasa na ng board ganyan ang ibinibigay na sweldo ng mga hospital?” he asked.