06/15/2023, 16.50
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Out of nearly a million registered nurses in the Philippines, one third work abroad

After an excellent training, most nurses prefer to move abroad because of the low wages at home. Last year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. set a ceiling of 7,000 going overseas. Filling staff shortages in Philippine hospitals would take at least 12 years.

Manila (AsiaNews) – According to the Philippine Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, the country's registered nurses (RNs) are "the best in the world”. Yet, a good number work abroad because of very low wages and heavy workload at home, this according to the Inquirer.net news website.

The Professional Regulation Commission puts the number of Philippine RNs at 951,105. about 75 per cent women, but only 509,297 are considered “active.” Another 316,415 have left, most notably for Austria, Canada, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the United States.

Last year, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. set a ceiling of 7,000 overseas nurses per year.

The reasons why Filipino nurses are so in demand abroad is because of their excellent training.

“Filipino nurses are competent and very caring at the same time,” said Jocelyn Andamo, general secretary of the Filipino Nurses United (FNU). And “We are proficient in English, too.” In fact, the Philippines ranks 22nd out of 111 countries on the English Proficiency Index.

What is more, Philippine nurses have a “very positive work attitude,” Andamo notes, pointing out that they have good personal relations and show compassion, qualities that are not, however, rewarded at home.

At present, Department of Health data suggest that the country needs an additional 127,000 to provide optimal health care. At the current rate of graduation, it would take 12 years to close the gap.

According to the FNU, the only way to keep Philippine nurses in the country is to increase their salary; in the public sector, the entry-level salary is 32,097 pesos (US$ 575) per month; however, many government nurses are contractual and get much less than what is provided by law.

Compared to the entry-level pay in the United States (US$ 3,800) and the United Kingdom (£ 1,662, US$ 2,116), the choice is obvious for some Philippine nurses.

According to the FNU, the only way to make nurses stay in the Philippines is to regularise contractual nurses, increase the entry-level salary to 50,000 pesos (US$ 895) in government and private hospitals, and ensure a safe nurse-patient ratio to address the problem of severe and chronic understaffing, a situation that was all too obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FNU notes that the ideal nurse-patient ratio in hospitals is 1:12, while some nurses presently can take care of 20 to 50 patients every shift.

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