"We cannot stop doctors and nurses from leaving the country to work overseas."
I totally agree with Anakalusugan Representative Mike Defensor in calling for the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider the 5,000-annual limit on the number of newly hired Filipino healthcare workers that may be allowed to leave the country for overseas employment.
As the good congressman says, this could be a new source for some money-making racket for corrupt government personnel.
Exit quotas or similar restrictions, Defensor says, are not really desirable because they tend to expose individuals to potential exploitation – from the time they apply for overseas employment certificates up to their point of departure in immigration counters.
“As far as we’re concerned, there’s really no point in restraining our healthcare workers from leaving for abroad, if we can’t provide them good-paying jobs here at home,” the lawmaker insists.
Rightfully said. With the scarcity of jobs awaiting for healthcare workers locally, they often end up applying for work outside of the country. But with these restrictions, there is a great tendency for local recruitment agencies to bribe personnel of concerned agencies to ensure that the job orders for healthcare workers they have cornered from foreign employers would be prioritized in the listing. And whatever expenses these recruitment agencies would incur in the process, would of course be passed on to their applicants.
Hence, Defensor suggests that if they’ve already received hiring notices from foreign employers, then that should just be allowed to leave.
Of the newly hired healthcare workers leaving the country every year, nurses comprise the largest group, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
The 14 categories of newly hired healthcare workers covered by the 5,000 single combined annual deployment cap are medical doctors, nurses, microbiologists, molecular biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, x-ray technicians, nursing assistants, operators of medical equipment, supervisors of health services and personal care and repairmen of medical-hospital equipment.
The ceiling excludes healthcare workers who are merely returning to their foreign employers.
While there is a need to recognize the need to lessen the loss of mission-critical skills, the lawmaker stressed it is also the State’s constitutional duty to promote a rising standard of living and improved quality of life for all Filipinos, including our healthcare workers and their families.
With this in consideration, Defensor authored House Bill 7933, which seeks to double to P60,901 the entry-level monthly pay for government nurses to discourage at least some of them from seeking greener pasture overseas.
“We must also stress that every Filipino enjoys the right to sell his or her skills to the best employer here or abroad that will offer the greatest reward,” Defensor said.
But how could we entice these healthcare workers to render their services here if they are not justly compensated? Last year, citing sources, I wrote an article regarding the sad plight of doctors working in the Quezon City Medical Center.
In my article then, I wrote that Level 3 Resident Doctors get a net monthly salary of P50,952.43.
Not all Level 3 Resident Doctors earn this much as some only receive P21,000 without any other benefits. The same goes for the Level 2 Resident Doctors who receive the same P21,000 basic pay with no benefits.
But Level 1 Resident Doctors are reportedly are not being paid a single centavo by the Quezon City Government. The sad thing is, when they confronted the Human Resource Department of QCMC, according to the source, they were simply told to render work in the spirit of bayanihan.
After my article came out, Josephine Sabando, director of QCMC, wrote a letter to the Manila Standard desk to clarify that the present city government has already been doing something to address the situation and that that the salaries of some of the Resident 3 Doctors and those of the Resident 2, have been increased to P35,000 a month. Noting has been said of the Resident 1 Doctors.
But still, the P35,000 monthly salaries for those doctors are not enough. In fact, Defensor should file another bill, this time seeking to increase the entry-level monthly salaries of doctors.
Otherwise, we cannot stop them from leaving the country to work overseas. Never mind if they fall victims to unscrupulous people who are out to exploit the exit quota imposed by the IATF.