BY JOHNNY DAYANG
Just last Monday, seven Filipino nurses, already seating at ease inside planes bound for United Kingdom, were offloaded by Immigration authorities. The reason: The country is under emergency and needs healthcare workers to fight the COVID-19 pandemic!
Common sense in public service, in many instances, has been thrown out of the window. Even in the use of wind barriers to ward off COVID droplets, the “experts” advised couples to put the divider between them after their conjugal tryst.
Today, there is roughly 200,000 nurses spread across the country but without jobs. Despite the impassioned invitation for them to join public service with the promise of competitive salary, daily allowance, insurance, and hazard pay, the low turnout of applicants agonizingly reflects the mistrust healthcare workers have towards the State which, during this time of contagion, has failed to fulfill what it has publicly promised in terms of benefits due to medical frontliners in an emergency.
The recent unloading of nurses with live contracts was a deplorable conduct. The failure of Labor and Immigration people to know the restrictions in the ban of healthcare workers describes the paucity of readiness and the discombobulated logic the authorities have.
What the Labor order emphasizes is to disallow healthcare people from leaving the country if their contracts took effect after March 8, 2020. The offloaded nurses, sad to say, got their signed papers before the declaration of the pandemic but only had their visas approved in August. Even if the health workers got their signed contracts after the March 8 deadline, does the departure of seven nurses really make a difference?
On the average, according to the Filipino Nurses United, close to 20,000 nurses annually leave the country for abroad. This is a tenth of the total number of unemployed nurses the government has failed to lure to join our healthcare system.
The dismal picture of healthcare employment in the country got a devastating news just days ago after data aggregator iPrice Group bared that the Philippines occupies the bottom rung in terms of nursing paycheck, which is a monthly take-home pay of P40,381, the lowest among seven Southeast Asian countries. Vietnam, the second lowest, pays P62,200 per month, while Singapore, which tops the list, pays skilled registered nurses a hefty P236,400 monthly.
Why would the government restrict the deployment of nurses when all it offers as compensation is nothing but small change? If the driftwoods in public service, some of them assistant or undersecretaries, are paid handsomely for being idle, the healthcare workers who save lives deserve more respect and should be paid better!
* * *
The presidency on Manny Pacquiao would be the ultimate achievement of our democratic system. Congrats Atty. Waray!