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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Exodus of nurses

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Don’t look now, but we’re likely to lose nearly 30,000 of our nurses to hospitals in the United States soon.

That’s because there’s likely to be a fresh wave of mass migration of Filipino nurses seeking the proverbial greener pastures primarily to the United States.

The result: Our own hospitals and other medical and health facilities could end up seriously understaffed and unable to provide adequate care to our own growing population.

The fear is real.

As things now stand, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, 18,644 nurses went overseas in 2019, a total 16,711 of them as temporary migrants and 1,933 as permanent migrants.

Because of the migration ban during the pandemic, POEA recorded 5,787 temporary nurse migrants in 2020 and 10,610 in 2021.

A 2020 study by the University of the Philippines showed there were 8.2 nurses per 10,000 nationwide, below the WHO-prescribed ratio of 1:1,000, or 10:10,000.

The standard nurse-to-patient ratio set by the Department of Health is 1:12 but according to other studies, in most government hospitals, the usual nurse to patient ratio in general wards is 1:20.

The Professional Regulation Commission reported a total 475,995 licensed nurses in the country in 2021.

According to DOH data, there are around 10,600 registered nurses annually and Philippine schools produce some 80,000 nursing graduates every year.

The House committee on higher and technical education has noted 26,972 Filipino nurses took their first US licensure test from January to September this year.

This number is more than double the 12,399 who took the test during the same nine-month period in 2022.

The US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc., which administers the National Council Licensure Examination, has reported 49 percent of Philippine-educated nurses pass the exam on their first take.

Passing this exam is the final step in the US nurse licensing process.

The surge in the number of nursing graduates from the Philippines taking the US licensure examination portends an alarming decline in the number of nurses who can take care of our own people.

What is to be done?

The government should take firm action now to incentivize our nurses to stay here.

House Bill 5276 would raise the lowest monthly base pay of nurses employed by government hospitals by 75 percent – from P36,619 to P63,997.

This will increase the minimum base pay of government nurses by six notches to Salary Grade 21 under the Salary Standardization Law of 2019.

Congress should pass the proposed measure soon as the WHO has warned that overseas migration could result in a nurse shortfall in the Philippines of 249,843 by 2030.

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