While public hospitals are understaffed, government fails to fill some 20,000 vacancies for health workers.
Related article: Health groups decry slash in gov’t hospitals budget in 2018
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – While the government promotes jobs in hospitals abroad, the Philippines is actually in dire need of nurses and doctors. According to the Department of Budget and Management’s 2018 National Expenditure Program, there are in fact 20,101 vacant plantilla positions for government health workers.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said this is in the proposed 2018 budget for the Department of Health (DOH).
These plantilla positions remain vacant, in spite the continued hiring by government hospitals, because the health workers and professionals they hire are contractuals.
“The DOH is the number one recruiter of contractual, job order and contract-of-services employees,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW chairperson.
Contractual employees do not receive the benefits enjoyed by regular employees, such as 13th month pay and hazard pay.
The lack of human resources, said Mendoza, definitely affects the delivery of quality health care to patients. The ideal nurse to patient ratio, according to DOH, is 1:12, but this is hardly true in many hospitals.
For one, in Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, the nurse to patient ratio in the male surgical ward is 2:59. The ratio is 2:64 in the women surgical ward, as well as the stroke unit.
Lack of nurses in NKTI
Edwin Pacheco, president of the National Kidney Transplant and Institute employees association, said that nurses have been leaving their hospital due to massive contractualization.
“Nurses are hired as contractuals, and it will take about eight years or more for them to become regular employees,” Pacheco said.
NKTI is a government-owned and controlled corporation. The government only subsidizes the maintenance and other operating expenses of the hospital but not the salaries of employees. Salaries of GOCC employees come from the income of the hospital.
“Our hospital is world-class but the delivery of health care is near-death as nurses leave to seek better job opportunity than in NKTI,” he told Bulatlat. He said contractuals make up 40 percent of NKTI employees, a spike from only 10 percent in the past years.
NKTI caters to patients with kidney diseases. Pacheco said there should be a sufficient number of nurses to give the patient the health care they needed.
But it is not the reality in NKTI, in a regular ward where there are 25 to 35 patients, there are only two nurses who are on duty.
“If one patient is critical, a nurse has to pay close attention to that patient so that he would not die. But with fewer nurses on duty, they cannot do that because they have to look after the other patients,” he said.
The emergency department, which receives about 100 patients a day, only has four to five nurses.
He said emergency cases in NKTI is a matter of life and death.
“A patient that was admitted to the emergency room needs immediate medical attention, however patients have to wait because of the lack of nurses,” he said.
It is even worse for patients who do not have money for dialysis, because they will not be given treatment. “They need to pay first – which was not the system before,” he added.
He added that these contractual nurses also work overtime but without a pay; they work in a hazardous workplace but do not receive hazard pay. Contracuals also do not have the right to join the union, said Pacheco.
Mendoza said contractual workers in government hospitals and GOCCs range from utility workers to nurses. At least 13,000 are contractuals under DOH based on the 2016 Commission on Audit report.
“In addition, 24,820 nurses, doctors, midwives and other professionals under the Health Human Resources for Health Deployment or the Doctors to the Barrios program of the DOH are essentially contractual for one or two years. The DOH must fill up the vacant positions, and they must answer where the allotted fund is really utilized,” said Mendoza.