Pinoy Abroad


Fil-Brit nurse who gave world’s first COVID-19 jab forms charity

By GISELLE OMBAY,GMA Integrated News

May Parsons, the Filipino-British nurse who administered the first shot of COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, has come back to the Philippines to establish a charity to help Filipino nursing graduates and licensed nurses get into the profession.

Interviewed on Super Radyo dzBB, Parsons said that she has partnered with the Occupational English-Test to fund the May Parsons Foundation to give back to the Filipino nursing community, which she stressed experienced a lot of “horror stories,” especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ang balak kong gawin ay tumulong sa mga nurses nating mga estudyante para makapagpatuloy silang mag-aral at saka ‘yung ating mga kapwa nurses na hindi pumasa, gusto ko silang tulungan na mag-review para makakuha sila ng lisensya at makapag-trabaho as nurses. Gusto ko ring ma-engganyo kapwa nating nurses na nasa call centers o kahit sa anong industriya na bumalik sa pag-aalaga,” she explained.

(What I intend to do is help our student nurses to continue their studies, and also my fellow nurses who did not pass the board exam to review so that they can get a license and work as nurses. I also want to encourage the nurses who are in call centers or in any industry to return to nursing.)

Health Secretary Ted Herbosa has raised concerns regarding the lack of nurses in government hospitals, noting that 4,500 plantilla items for nurses are currently vacant in over 70 hospitals of the Department of Health (DOH) nationwide.

Even the private hospitals are suffering the same problem, as Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) president Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said Tuesday that they lack 50% of their nursing staff as many have resigned and opted for better-paying jobs elsewhere.

Herbosa had said that the number of nurses working in the Philippines may be exhausted in three to five years if the problem of them leaving the country is not addressed eventually.

In a bid to address this, he plans on taking in nursing graduates who flunked the board exam and scored 70-74% to help fill in


the vacant positions in DOH hospitals.

The Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC), however, argued that there is no provision in the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 that would legally allow the issuance of temporary licenses to nursing graduates who have yet to pass the Nursing Licensure Examination.

For her part, Parsons said she is willing to talk with Herbosa to know the rationale behind his proposal and to give suggestions on how to improve the condition of nurses working in the Philippines.

She lamented that the brain drain of Filipino nurses usually stemmed from the lack of better salary and benefits, particularly in private hospitals.

“Madaming nurses dito na hindi nagnu-nursing. Nasa call center po sila. Isa ‘yan na dahilan kung bakit sila nagca-call center at hindi nagnu-nursing ay dahil mas malaki ang kita. Tapos mahirap din daw kumuha ng trabaho sa gobyernong ospital. Nakukuha nila ‘yung mga pribado na kung magbayad ay hindi naman sapat,” she said.

(There are many nurses here who are not in the nursing industry. They are in the call center. They work there because the salary is higher. They also said it is difficult to get a job in a government hospital, that’s why they get in private hospitals which give salaries that are not enough.)

Parsons said she recently went to Cavite and Baguio to meet Filipino nurses and nursing students, and share her nursing life experiences in the United Kingdom.

In December 2020, the Fil-Brit nurse gave the first COVID-19 vaccine shot outside clinical trials—a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—to then-90 year-old Margaret Keenan, in London.

Parsons also received the George Cross award from Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle. It is the highest civilian award bestowed by the British government, given for "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger." —KG, GMA Integrated News