“We have the same calls since 1980s but the situation of nurses is still the same.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Nurses from the public and private sectors led by the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) launched April 8 a campaign for salary increase and jobs for unemployed nurses.
Dubbed as the Red Cap Movement, the nurses wore red caps to dramatize the urgency and determination of their appeal on the government “to give priority to the health care of the people, immediately address the shortage of regular nurses and other health workers in the public hospitals and public health institutions, and fully provide for their duly mandated salaries and benefits.”
Mila M. Llanes, PNA national president, said during a program at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) that nurses are loyal and faithful to the government but they are also calling on the government to give what is due to them.
“We have the same calls since 1980s but the situation of nurses is still the same,” Llanes said.
Llanes said the Nurses Act of 2002, which mandates P25,000 ($563) as the starting salary of nurses, has never been implemented while so much money was wasted in the government’s wrong priorities. She said the government could have allocated the money for plantilla positions for nurses.
Plantilla positions or items in the government sector refers to regular employees who receive government mandated benefits such as social security, housing, health, sick and vacation leaves.
According to the PNA, nurses in the public hospitals are handling patients three to four times higher than the Department of Health-prescribed 1:12 nurse to patient ratio. In spite of the chronic understaffing in public hospitals and public health institutions, 200,000 registered nurses are jobless, the PNA said.
Citing the data from the DOH, the PNA said there are 18,000 nurses employed by the government in 2005 and 9,000 nurses in the private sector. It has ballooned to 42,000 employed nurses (21,000 public and 21,000 private) by the end of 2014 without an increase in plantilla items in the government and main health centers where nurses are usually deployed or any substantial increase in bed capacities in hospitals.
Data from the National League of Government Nurses show that nurses in plantilla positions are about 17,000.
Jossel Ebesate, chairman of the PNA’s Department of Nurses Welfare and also chief nurse at the PGH, finds the DOH data “dubious.”
“What is the basis of hiring new nurses without increase in plantilla items and bed capacities in hospitals? Even if the government claims that there are 12,500 nurses in the Nurses Deployment Program, their data is still not tallying,” Ebesate said.
The Nurse Deployment Program is formerly called Registered Nurses for Health Enhancement and Local Service or RN Heals. Those who have landed a job in public and private hospitals are suffering from low salaries.
There are also 300,000 registered nurses who work in other fields like business processing outsourcing. Llanes also said that if understaffing will be addressed, all Filipinos will be taken cared of. Most of all, Filipino nurses don’t have to leave the country to work abroad.
“Of course, we acknowledge that the remittances help the economy. But it is not also fair for the families that are left behind,” she said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
The group plans to hold a series of year-round activities to amplify their campaign. They will also carry this issue on the International Nurses Day on May 12. Llanes urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to address their concerns.