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Filipino healthcare workers appeal for higher pay: ‘Hindi namin alam kung saan lulugar at nakakasakal’

Several Filipino healthcare workers appealed for a higher pay amid the country’s shortage of more than 100,000 nurses.

Hanz Santos, a Medical Technologist, had spent almost P100,000 for his pre-departure requirements to work in New York, United States, according to Mark Salazar's "24 Oras" report on Thursday.

He said there is a hospital in New York that will hire him with a salary of more than P300,000.

Santos, however, said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has not yet issued his Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

He said this might be because of the deployment cap that the Philippines is implementing for healthcare workers who wanted to work abroad.

The POEA earlier said at least 7,000 nurses are allowed for overseas employment this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mayroong mga dinedeny for clearance para makalipad po. At the same time meron naman po nakakalipad po so nagtataka po kami ano ba ang nangyayari? Hindi po namin alam ilan sa 7,000 ang allotted for medical technologist, ilan for nurses,” Santos said.

(Some healthcare workers received denied clearance to go abroad. At the same time some can fly abroad, we were wondering what was going on? We also do not know how many in the 7,000 cap were allotted for medical technologist, how many for nurses.)

According to the POEA, the deployment of healthcare workers is prohibited due to the lack of 290,000 healthcare workers.

The Department of Health (DOH) said the country needs 106,000 nurses both in public and private facilities and hospitals.

DOH Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country also has a shortage of doctors, pharmacists, radiologic technologists, medical technologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, midwives, and dentists.

“Nananawagan po tayo sa ating mga kababayan na our nurses here in the country, midwives in the country, our dentists, and other healthcare professionals, meron tayong vacant na plantilla positions para ma-hire namin kayo,” Vergeire said.

(We are calling on our countrymen who are nurses, midwives, dentists, or are other healthcare professionals, we have vacant plantilla positions so that we can hire you.)

The DOH said they would like to sustain and maintain the deployment cap.

However, healthcare workers said they receive higher salaries and benefits abroad compared to the Philippines.

“When I was in the Philippines, I can't afford my own health care. Sa Philippines alam ko P7,000 per month yung sinasahod ko. Babawasan pa ng SSS, PAG-IBIG, Philhealth,” said Carmina Flores, a medical technologist working in the US.

The government said the country’s healthcare system will suffer if more health workers will continue to work abroad.

“Hindi namin alam kung saan po talaga kami lulugar at nakakasakal. So wala kang choice kung hindi umalis na lang,” he said.

(We don't know where we will end up and it's suffocating. So you have no choice but to leave.)

The DOH said they will have a scheduled meeting with the Department of Migrant Workers and Department of Labor and Employment to discuss the possible incentives for the healthcare workers in order for them not to leave the country.

The DMW, on the other hand, said they will discuss the issue together with the POEA and DOH in the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) before making a decision. -- BAP, GMA News