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)