The government uses labor export to boost the economy, although the Migrant Workers and Overseas Act of 1995 states that “the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development.”
“When a country has a fragile health system, the loss of its workforce can bring the whole system close to collapse and the consequences can be measured in lives lost. In these circumstances, the calculus of international migration shifts from brain drain or gain to ‘fatal flows’,” the WHO report read.
Furthermore, the education system of many medical schools in the country is “commercialized and westernized,” giving attention to foreign diseases such as Alzheimer’s, said Velchez. “They are preparing the students to cater to the global market,” he added.
“But if health workers want to leave the country, who could blame them if their starting pay here is P12,000 ($268.99) compared to P35,000 to P40,000 ($784.577 to $896.659) in other countries?” Mostrales said.
Velchez said that in his experience in a public hospital in Tondo, the normal nurse to patient ratio is 1:50 to 1:100, while the recommended ratio is 1:4. Many nurses even work overtime – 24 hours without sleep – without additional pay.
Some government hospitals do not even provide face masks to nurses even when they have to work in a ward, Velchez said. “In my case, I have to recycle my gloves until they melt,” he quipped.
(Photo By Aubrey Makilan/bulatlat.com
The situation worsened when the Salary Standardization Law III was passed last year, said Velchez, adding that HEAD and other organizations are lobbying for the government to repeal the law.
All the benefits under RA 7305 or Nursing Act of 2002 were eliminated; while standard allowances were retained it was no longer based on the amount prescribed by Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, explained Benjamin Santos, president of All UP Workers Union-Manila. Under SSL III, most health workers will receive P18,808 ($421.609), around P4,000 ($89.665) less than the P21,766.25 ($487.92) prescribed by the Magna Carta.
With this situation, the next administration “has a lot of cleaning to do,” Santos said.
First, whoever wins the top position in the May 10 elections should generously increase the budget for health, Santos said. The allocation is best pegged at five percent of the GDP as recommended by the WHO.
The current allocation for health is less than one percent of the GDP. With an adequate budget, health workers in tertiary hospitals may receive ample salaries and benefits, which will help keep professionals from going abroad, said Mostrales.
Also, the government must deploy more practitioners especially in poor communities, where people could not afford quality healthcare, Velchez said.
“Of course, there should be no militarization in communities because it hampers community-based health services. The military clumps together armed rebels and those who only wanted to provide services to the needy,” said Velchez.
However, the problems of the healthcare system do not stand in isolation, said Velchez. The problems of the health sector will only be addressed if the next administration also addresses the root causes of poverty, such as lack of genuine land reform, he added. (Bulatlat.com)