So there is now this bit of consolation to Filipino nurses. The Department of Budget and Management had finally released Budget Circular 2020-4, dated July 17, 2020, upgrading the entry level positions of government nurses.
It brings the salary grade of a Nurse 1 position from 11 to 15, which increases their salary to between P32,000 to P34,000.
This came not without a fight, a feat after the Supreme Court on Dec. 13, 2019, favored the petition filed by Ang NARS Party-list. The high court upheld the validity of Sec. 32 of Republic Act 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. Government had to earmark P3 billion in the General Appropriations Act for FY 2020 to the salary upgrade of nurses in public health institutions.
However, while this is cause for celebration, it causes a sharp contrast to the fate of nurses outside the public health system.
Under the circular’s Section 4 on exclusions, nurses hired without employee-employer relationship and funded from the non-Personnel Services budget are not part of the salary upgrade.
The circular may not be good news to nurses outsourced by local governments to fill in positions in public hospitals. Their salaries are relatively lower than their government-employed counterparts and do not enjoy the benefits of a member of the Government Service Insurance System.
The upgrade also rubs salt on the wounds of private hospital nurses whose salaries are around half of how much their public counterparts receive. In this pandemic, government had hired nurses to help augment the manpower in private hospitals, creating a scenario where the host nurses have to mentor trainees who are paid twice as much as they are.
Earlier, Dr. Peter Mancao, public relations officer of the Cebu Medical Society, said nurses in Cebu’s private hospitals have been severely demoralized. They are constantly exposed to risk to Covid-19 infection with a dearth of protective equipment and they are overworked and underpaid.
He said, “Maybe increase their salary so they can eat well and they are healthy. As far as hospitals are concerned, maybe an incentive for them to take in more Covid patients.”
A big percentage of the number of infected health care workers is that of nurses. Dr. Mancao said private hospital nurses have been considering resignation amid the seeming neglect over their welfare.
The Philippine Nurses Association Cebu Chapter meanwhile has been mobilizing help for Cebu’s nurses, bringing duty nurses food packs and extending help to those under quarantine.
The Office of the Vice President as well has extended transportation and accommodation for the health care workers.
These are all laudable efforts, but there has to be a firm policy that is as beneficial to the entire nursing community as the one given to government nurses.