September 27, 2023

The Department of Health is in a quandary and people who have health issues are not at all happy.
Recently, the DOH came out with a pronouncement it plans to employ in government hospitals nursing graduates who failed the nursing board examination but who, nevertheless, got average scores between 70 to 74 percent. This is how dire our need for nurses is that the DOH is willing to go to the extreme to fill out the vacancies.
As it is, there is a shortage in the number of nurses working in Philippine hospitals despite the fact the country prides itself as having the most number of nursing schools in Asia. Why is this so? The reason is obvious. Philippine hospitals, government and private, are in no position to compete with the salaries being given by hospitals in other countries.
The salaries being received by nurses in local hospitals are not even half of what they receive if they go abroad. It is a pittance. This is not to mention the perks and benefits given by foreign hospitals to their nurses like allowing them to obtain citizenship and having their families migrate there.
Hence, it is not far-fetched that as between a low paying job that grants them benefits which is not commensurate with their status as professionals and a high paying job that gives them fulfillment as health workers, the latter will be preferred. It is really a no-brainer.
Towards this end, our nurses have flocked to foreign countries, unmindful that in doing so, they are creating a health crisis in the country. To work as a nurse abroad is a life changing opportunity.
The DOH has tried to address the exodus of nurses by implementing several restrictions.
First was to require nurses to render mandatory employment in local hospitals for five years before being issued a clearance to work abroad. This formula proved inadequate because to require someone, including nurses, to render mandatory service is a violation of the constitutional right against involuntary servitude.
Second was to standardize the salaries of nurses. This also did not work because primary and secondary private hospitals, including lie-in clinics, were in no position to adjust and increase the salaries of their employees.
Besides, even with the standardized salaries of nurses, the salaries they receive abroad is still so much higher than the highest paid nurses in the country. The lure of a foreign life is too much to pass up on.
And so, to address the shortage of nurses in hospitals, the DOH is seeking to employ board-flunkers. This approach is as laudable as it is laughable. If this is the tact of reasoning that the DOH wants to adhere to, for sure, there will be no shortage of nurse recruits. However, recruits are not what we need. What we need are competent, qualified, and able-bodied nur-ses who can take full responsibility for our lives and health. We do not need half-baked professionals who have no reason to be there except to fill up a vacancy or to patch up a deficiency that the government is unable to provide.
If the aim is to produce more nurses, why not just lower the passing rate of the nursing board examination from 75 to 70?
In that manner, those within the threshold of failing will have a colorable claim of being called nurses. Or still, why not pass them all since their skill is not measured by the result of the examination, anyway?
The care that nurses provide are based on their ability to interact with people who are afflicted with sickness. It is not the synthetic medicines that ease our pain but the tender loving care that is shown by those tending us in our times of crisis. Far-flung municipalities have survived without the assistance of nurses but of aides and midwives who have shown more concern to their patients than the professionals do.
There must be better ways to fill up nurses’ vacancies in hospitals than employing failures.
Yes, they may be qualified, but it leaves a bad impression about our health care. It makes us second-class patients in our own country which we do not deserve.