Bello clarifies ‘nurses-for-vax’ issue; says UK asks exemption from PH deployment cap on nurses

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021   •   572

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III cannot put in detail yet the response of the British government on the conditions the Philippine government has offered to allow the deployment of more Filipino health workers to the United Kingdom.

But Bello has high hopes that the negotiations will yield positive results for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers.

“Positive naman ang reaction ng Ambassador. Sabi niya, I can go back to his principal and he will come to me after 10 days which he did. Bumalik siya noong February 24 at meron siyang sulat,” Bello explained.

“Kaya lang hindi pa ko at liberty na i-public ang content ng sulat because I will first submit it to the President,” he added.

Secretary Bello said it was the UK government who requested not to include them in the Philippines’ list of countries with deployment caps for health workers.

The said deployment cap allows only 5,000 Filipino health workers to go abroad each year.

Bello clarified on the matter after a group of nurses expressed disappointment over reports of alleged ‘nurses-for-vaccine’ in which DOLE appeared to be bargaining Filipino nurses for COVID-19 vaccine supply from the UK.

“Nasaktan kami and we think na hindi yun tama dahil ang mga nurses ay matagal nang nagsasakripisyo at tumutulong sa pandemyang ito pero hindi magandang pakinggan na parang kami ay barter commodity na kapalit noong bakuna,” said Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of Filipino Nurses United.

Bello explained that the UK is sixth among countries in the world with the fastest infection rate for COVID-19. 

He said they just want to make sure that the nurse will be protected first before they are deployed to the UK.

“Gusto ko bago sila ma-deploy ay naka-vaccine na sila para ligtas sila,” Bello noted.

“Hindi ko sinabing bigyan nyo ako ng vaccine tapos kapalit ng nurses,” he stressed.

The FNU opposes the deployment cap saying the country has enough nurses.

In fact, the group said, there are about 800,000 to 900,000 registered nurses in the country. 

Over 250,000 of them are deployed in different countries; over 220,000 works outside of the field of medicine; and only about 90,000 are practicing their profession.

“Ang shortage ng nurses sa tingin namin ito ay acute or even false shortage because we have enough nurses in the Philippines,” Adamo argued.

“Hindi lang sila maximized, tapped or encouraged to work in that nursing profession or maglingkod within the healthcare system dahil nga sa sobrang kababaan ng sahod at hindi magandang work conditions,” she added.

It can be recalled that the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 imposed a deployment cap on nurses to ensure that the country has enough number in case the COVID-19 situation worsens in the country.

Bello confirmed that aside from the UK, about 50,000 nurses are also needed in Germany though there is no negotiation yet between Berlin and Manila on the matter. MNP (with input from Rey Pelayo)

DOLE denies deployment ban on health care workers

Maris Federez   •   November 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)  has denied reports of a deployment ban on health care workers, particularly nurses.

In a statement, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III clarified that since the deployment cap of 6,500 has already been reached, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) announced the temporary suspension of deployment.

However, there are exemptions to the said ban.

“We have already reached the current ceiling of 6,500 on the deployment of health care workers. However, OFWs under the Balik Manggagawa, government-to-government arrangements, and those who will be deployed in the United Kingdom are exempted from the suspension,” Bello said.

The labor chief also said that the lifting of the suspension is subject to the evaluation by concerned government agencies of the current situation on the deployment of healthcare workers.

“The Labor Department will confer the matter with the Professional Regulation Commission, the Philippines Nurses Association and the Department of Health should there be a need for the increase of say, another 1,500 in the existing cap,” Bello said. —/mbmf

Increase in annual deployment cap for HCW, not yet recommended — DOLE

Marje Pelayo   •   September 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is not keen on increasing the current deployment cap for healthcare workers (HCWs).

This is despite requests from other countries like Brunei and Germany.

According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, they need to assess first how many healthcare workers are left in the Philippines since many opted to work abroad.

“Hinihintay muna namin iyong assessment kung ilan pa ang ating mga nurses at healthcare worker na nandito sa ating bansa. Dahil tinitiyak natin na kapag dinagdagan pa natin ang deployment ng mga nurses ay hindi tayo mababawasan to the extent na wala nang titingin sa ating mga kababayan pagdating ng panahon,” Bello said.

Initially, the deployment cap for healthcare workers was 5,000.

In June, the IATF increased the deployment ceiling to 6,500 after the initial cap was reached midway of the year.

Bello said they have already coordinated with the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) to conduct an inventory of nurses to make sure that the country has sufficient health workforce should the COVID-19 situation in the country turn critical.

Still, healthcare workers may opt to leave for countries exempted from the deployment cap such as in the United Kingdom.

Bello said they are also weighing things in relation to Brunei’s request for exemption from the deployment cap.

According to the Philippines’ labor office in Brunei, the sultanate is in need of around 200 nurses and 30 doctors.

Nurses in Brunei can earn as much as $2,000 US dollars a month with free accommodation and transportation.

According to PNA, healthcare workers in the Philippines are actually enough in terms of number.

However, the group said, there are no attractive offers in the local healthcare industry that is why many choose to work abroad for greener pastures.

Citing the DOH’s Human Resource Development Bureau, Labor Assistant Secretary Nikki Tutay said that from a total of 601,796 registered nurses in the country, more than half or 339,335 are either migrants or with working contracts abroad.

Meanwhile, more than 183,491 are in the country and currently employed.

However, there are around 70,000 who are either unemployed or working outside their fields of study.

The official noted that the Philippines still needs around 120,000 nurses more to fill the staffing gaps and achieve the target ratio of 24 nurses for every 10,000 population.

“Kung merong kang mahuhugot sa 70,000 either doon sa mga hindi nagtatrabaho o nagtatrabaho sa ibang sektor kulang pa rin po iyong supply ng ating nurses,” said ASec. Tutay.

DOLE is also coordinating with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to consider schools that have moratoriums for nursing enrollees to increase the number of students.

ASec. Tutay noted that there were no new nurses last year after the board exam was suspended due to the pandemic.

This year, only 5,000 nurses passed the nursing board exam.

Records show that before the pandemic, the Philippines produced an average of 20,000 to 30,000 registered nurses annually. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Brunei seeks exemption from PH’s deployment cap on healthcare workers

Marje Pelayo   •   August 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The government of Brunei is requesting exemption from the Philippines’ current deployment cap on healthcare workers.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), there is a demand for around 200 nurses and 30 medical doctors in Brunei based on a report from Labor Attaché Melissa Mendizabal of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Brunei Darussalam.

Mendizabal said Brunei initially requested for exemption in 2020 but it did not materialize. Another request was sent in July this year.

“There are two hospitals here, one government hospital and one private hospital. The salary is comparable to the salary of nurses in Singapore. Nurses receive high take-home pay because of the free accommodation and transportation. If they render overtime work, they earn as much as 2,000 Brunei Dollars per month,” said the labor attaché.

Other than the healthcare sector, the official also mentioned job opportunities in the oil and gas industry as well as in the household service sector.

Around 10 percent of the Filipino population in Brunei work in the oil and gas sector and receive higher salaries ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 Brunei dollars. Among these workers are engineers and architects.

Mendizabal added that there is also demand for semi-skilled workers, such as car technicians of high-end vehicles in Brunei.

“The Brunei government is trying to implement localization, meaning they want to employ the locals here,” she said.

“But when it comes to supervisory and managerial roles, they give these positions to our Filipino workers,” she added. At present, there are around 20,000 OFWs in Brunei.

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