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DOH: 12 to 23 years to address shortage of nurses, doctors under existing policies

It would take 12 to 23 years for the country to address the shortage of nurses and doctors, respectively, under the current situation, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the admission after House appropriations panel senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo pointed out that a lot of licensed physicians and nurses are not working in the health sector based on government records.

DOH records showed there are 44,602 physicians and 178,629 nurses working in the country, a far cry from Professional Regulatory Commission’s records showing 95,000 licensed doctors and 509,000 licensed nurses.

The lack of active nurses and physicians was earlier revealed in a Senate hearing.

“Not all of our doctors and nurses are working within the [health] sector. They are in other professions such as teaching, Business Process Outsourcing, among others,” Vergeire said.

Quizzed by Quimbo on how many additional nurses and physicians are needed, the DOH OIC said the country is in need of additional 178,000 nurses and 114,000 physicians.

“We produce 4,387 physicians and 10,645 nurses per year, so it would take 12 years for the nurses, and 23 years for physicians [to meet such a target],” Vergeire said.

Quimbo then urged the DOH to address the situation, given the huge number of unmet needs.

“These figures [of active nurses and physicians] are way behind PRC’s records,” she said.

Quimbo then suggested that nurses and physicians of state schools and universities should be mandated to render a certain period of service to the country to close the gap.

“The new graduates of public schools could be mandated, but I imagine it would be difficult to make the same policy for private schools. But for those who graduated from public schools, since their education is financed by taxpayers, they should be willing to render the mandatory service,” she said.

“This will also serve as an additional training for them and  they will earn their salary, too, so it would not be a complete sacrifice,” she added.

Moving to other professions

Vergeire cited several reasons why it was a challenge for the DOH to recruit doctors and nurses.

“Marami ho kaming mga non-takers especiallt in our hospitals and facilities which are far-flung. Even the security reasons," Vergeire said.

She also pointed to non-competitive salaries.

"Ito po ang pinagdi-discuss namin ngayon with the Department of Budget and Management on how we can be able to collapse two positions para mas makapagbigay kami ng mas mataas na suweldo,” Vergeire said.

The undersecretary urged Congress to create more plantilla positions for doctors and nurses.

“Almost 40 to 50% of our health care workers working now in our facilities and even in the communities are job orders. So yun po ang ihihingi namin ng tulong sa inyo ngayon," Vergeire said.

"Baka puwede ho nating madagdagan ang plantilla positions so that we can retain them further. These job orders would only receive yun pong salary na hindi naman katumbas ng salary ng isang permanent employee,” she added.

Vergeire admitted that there are still 6,162 unfilled plantilla positions for doctors and 4,416 for nurses in DOH hospitals. —AOL/NB, GMA Integrated News