(Updated 3:18 p.m.) Health Secretary Enrique Ona on Monday said his department plans to hire half of the nurses under its Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service Project (RN Heals) program by next year.
"So ang gagawin natin ngayon ay we will cut into half na lamang ang ating iha-hire na nurses next year," Ona told reporters during an ambush interview at the Palace on Monday.
The RN Heals program trains and deploys registered nurses to poor rural communities in the country. Ona said there are almost 20,000 nurses deployed all over the country under it.
"When we started yung RN Heals program nung 2010, that was just a reaction or an emergency measure natin ... alam natin napakakulang ng ating mga health workers ... sa ating malalayong tinatawag nating depressed and poor areas kaya at the same time, alam din natin noon [na] napakadaming excess na walang trabaho," said Ona.
The Health secretary had earlier clarified that RN Heals does not intend to provide employment but rather "learning and development" and that the nurses under RN Heals are "not regular employees but pre-service trainees who are given allowances/stipend and not salaries."
Registered nurses under the program get an allowance of P8,000 per month, plus a P2,000 counterpart from the local government unit (LGU) they are serving.
But if the DOH pushes through with its plan, nurses who will be hired will get a higher pay.
"At least ito ay plano, subalit they will now be paid talagang yung tunay na compensation of a nurse which is about P16,000," said Ona.
"Ang target implementation ninto next year by January," he added.
Ona said President Benigno Aquino III has yet to act on this proposal but that he was "sure" the President would be supportive of it.
As for the other nurses who do not get hired by them, the DOH chief said he's confident that they would get hired elsewhere.
"Ang ating tingin in two years time kayang kaya na ng ating government hospitals whether it is a district hospital or even our DOH hospital, na magkaroon ng pondo para maabsorb itong mga ito," he said, attributing this to the expected revenue of hospitals from the expanded PhilHealth program.
He likewise said that the demand abroad for nurses seems to be looking up.
"Kaya nakikita kong paganda nang paganda na ang ating mga opportunities para sa ating mga nurses dito sa ating bayan," he said.
According to the US Department of Labor
, the "employment of registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent from 2010 to 2020, faster than the average for all occupations."
"Job opportunities should be excellent, even in hospitals, because of the relatively high turnover of hospital nurses. To attract and keep qualified nurses, hospitals may offer signing bonuses, family-friendly work schedules, or subsidized training," it said.
Earlier this year, Philippine Ambassador to Oman Joselito Jimeno also quoted Oman Minister of Health Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid al-Saidi as saying that their Sultanate alone is facing a shortage of around 8,900 doctors and nurses going into 2015 and that they intend to hire more nurses from the Philippines.
On the other hand, a separate report by the Nursing Times
quoted an analysis by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence as saying United Kingdom's National Health Service may see a 47,545 shortage of registered nurses by 2016. — RSJ, GMA News