IT’S an old, really enduring tale. Most of our nurses aren’t here to stay long. For decades now, Filipino nurses practising in the Philippines never had the decent pay that is proportionate to the level of professionalism achieved via stringent training and education. So we have a nursing workforce that, while nurturing a portfolio here, perpetually dreams of leaping towards brighter prospects abroad. It has always been beset by a culture of migration.
So while Filipino nurses have been an integral part of the US health system, making up about 20 percent of the nursing workforce, the Philippines has been drained of experienced nurses.
It is rather obscene and unfortunate to have seen this highlighted in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Philippine health care system.
Just this week, Dr. Peter Mancao, public relations officer of the Cebu Medical Society (CMS), revealed the state of our nurses at the front lines.
“The morale of our nurses is simply very low right now. They need much support,” Mancao said.
As though not strained enough by perennial understaffing, our nurses now have to wrestle with an even terrible reality of case surges in the hospitals. In one report, nurses in private hospitals complained of not receiving any hazard pay on top of their regular salary.
Nurses from other areas of hospitals have to be pulled out of regular routine to augment the staff assigned in Covid-19-dedicated areas. Without adequate regional consciousness, they are at once exposed to risk. Sufficient training for highly infectious areas has been skipped in the middle of all these urgencies.
The expansion of Covid facilities without adding nursing personnel made matters worse for them. The nurse-to-patient ratio keeps widening.
Even more unfortunate, day in and day out in private and public hospitals, a good number of nurses had to be pulled out for quarantine after being infected.
A report by the Department of Health (DOH) 7 showed that between Jan. 31 and June 12, around 35 nurses were found positive of Covid-19. They make up about 27 percent of health care personnel infected.
A June 21 report by Chong Hua Hospital showed that 79 of its nurses are held in quarantine. The Perpetual Succor Hospital, on June 26, reported that 18 of its nurses were quarantined, eight of these were confirmed with Covid-19.
Dr. Joseph Stephen Descallar, president of the Philippine Nurses Association Cebu Chapter, in reports, said a good number of nurses are on the brink of quitting their jobs. The group also heard there are already a good number of nurses who had resigned. In government hospitals, it was reported that the salaries of nurses have been severely delayed.
This is no small matter in our fight against the pandemic. Nurses are at the core of our health care system, holding the line so doctors can do their job. Government must address this problem as well with utmost concern and urgency.