Press Release
September 16, 2020

Villanueva reiterates appeal to gov't to lift deployment ban on healthcare workers; asks DOH to improve employment terms to entice workers

Senator Joel Villanueva has reiterated his appeal to the government to lift the prevailing deployment ban on healthcare workers, as he suggested to health authorities to make improvements to their working conditions and contracts to make it more commensurate to the risk involved.

Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, issued the appeal after the IATF leadership forwarded to the President its recommendation on the deployment ban issue, which have met strong opposition from healthcare workers such as nurses.

"Hindi po supply ng healthcare workers ang problema ng ating gobyerno, kung hindi kakayahan nitong pahalagahan ang kanilang trabaho. Wala pong duda na mas pipiliin ng ating mga healthcare workers na maglingkod sa ating mga pagamutan at ospital dito sa atin kung may seguridad sa trabaho at tapat na sahod at benepisyo," Villanueva said in a statement. "Nakikiusap po tayo sa ating gobyerno na tanggalin na ang deployment ban para sa kapakanan ng ating mga healthcare workers na nagigipit na."

("Supply of healthcare workers is not our government's issue, rather its ability to put value on their work. There is no doubt that our healthcare workers will choose to stay and serve in our health centers and hospitals if they can be assured of job security and sufficient salaries and benefits," Villanueva said in a statement. "We appeal to the government to lift the deployment ban for the sake of our healthcare workers who are in distress.)

"We have noted, that between 2012 and 2018 alone, 148,832 Filipinos passed the licensure exam for nurses. This is more than double the total 65,108 nurses currently employed in private and public health facilities," the lawmaker added, citing data from the Department of Health (DOH).

"Sa pagitan ng 2012 at 2018 po, mayroong 148,832 na mga Filipino na pumasa sa licensure exam para sa mga nars. Higit doble ito sa kabuuang 65,108 na nars na kasalukuyang nagtatrabaho sa mga pribado at pampublikong ospital at pasilidad," the lawmaker added, citing data from the Department of Health (DOH).)

Villanueva pointed out that health authorities should look into improving the employment terms it currently offers to healthcare workers to further entice them to join the government's ranks.

Aside from the low pay and unclear guidelines on the grant of hazard pay, the employment under the emergency hiring program lasts only three months, which the lawmaker described as "too short, since the pandemic won't be over within that time frame, and not to mention the lack of security of tenure that the DOH offers. Para lang po silang biktima ng 'endo.'"

Villanueva has written twice to the IATF—on June 18 and Aug. 28—to bring to its attention the impact of the deployment ban to healthcare workers. He explained that the affected workers are their families' breadwinners, have left their jobs to pursue overseas employment, and have spent considerable time and money to train and prepare for deployment.

The body replied to Villanueva on Sept. 1, reiterating that only those healthcare workers with perfected contracts as of Mar. 8 would not be covered by the deployment ban.

From the initial 600 nurses directly affected by the deployment ban, the number has grown to about 2,000 nurses, according to a nurses' group.

Citing industry data, Villanueva said Filipino nurses lag behind regional neighbors in terms of compensation, being paid an average of P40,381 a month, the least within the ASEAN. On the other hand, nurses in Singapore are paid P236,400 a month on the average, according to data aggregator iPrice group.

In April, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued a temporary deployment ban on healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, and allied health professions while the national state of emergency prevailed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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