Cabaero: Nurses’ pay

Nini Cabaero

NURSES around the country staged protest actions Friday, Nov. 8, 2019, to let the public know that they are among the underpaid and abused workers in the country.

They called it a national day of protest to demand the implementation of a law that granted them higher pay.

Nurses get P4,000 to P5,000 monthly meal allowance or nothing for the work they do. Government nurses have it better at rates from P12,000 to P18,000. After passing the board, they work to gain experience even for low or no pay just to fulfill requirements to go abroad. Such is the exploitative relationship that led to the shortage of nurses that we see.

Other nurses who do not want to go that route seek employment here, in business process outsourcing companies where they get big starting pay.

The bottom line is there is a scarcity of nurses in hospitals, depriving the public of access to health care.

Hospital rooms are closed off because of the lack of nurses. Patients are left in emergency rooms, staying at times for days or until a room becomes available.

My recent visit to an emergency room (ER) left me waiting for more than four hours at the reception area without seeing an ER bed. Many other patients and I got interviewed and examined at the reception areas, throwing patient privacy out the window.

Nurses in Baguio City staged a march Friday to denounce the non-implementation of Republic Act 9173 or Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 that would have raised the starting pay of nurses to P30,000.

In Manila, the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) led a march and prayer rally also last Friday and issued the same call--that government implement a salary increase for them. The Supreme Court ruled last October that government nurses are entitled by law to a minimum monthly salary of up to P30,530. In ruling on a petition of the Ang Nars party-list represented by Rep. Leah Samaco-Paquiz, the Supreme Court said government nurses’ minimum pay should be pegged at Salary Grade 15 that ranges from P19,845 to P30,531, depending on the town or city class. That would place them in the same grade as fire personnel and lowest-level Police Officer 1.

I didn’t see or read about a counterpart protest action by nurses in Cebu, although the PNA said the grievance was widespread.

The Supreme Court decision left it to Congress to implement the pay hike under the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 but Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there are no funds. Duque left it to the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management to work on the funds.

The law was passed in 2002 yet and the dillydallying of government is affecting health services. There is something wrong when the government funds health projects but does not support health workers.

Malasakit centers and free medicine programs help but access to hospital service and care are equally important to meet the medical needs of all Filipinos. Give nurses the pay increase.