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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gov't policy chided for exodus of Filipino nurses

MANILA, Philippines - A health group has accused President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administrationb of driving Filipino nurses out of the country to work abroad, effectively neglecting areas in the Philippines in need of proper health care.

“For the longest time, Mrs. Arroyo has known about the dearth of health personnel in the rural areas but has done nothing about it and instead, encouraged Filipino nurses to leave and work abroad in droves," said Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) secretary-general, in a statement on Tuesday.

Rivera said that the President has allowed nursing schools to “mushroom and mass-produce nurses" for the needs of other countries. Some figures have shown that the number of nursing students jumped from 30,000 in 2004 to almost 450,000 in 2008.

“Now, because so many nurses are in dire straits for being unemployed, she is taking advantage of the situation by offering them the NARS program, which is only temporary and may even hurt the rural communities in the long run," she said. 

The Nurses Assigned to Rural Areas or NARS program of the Arroyo administration is supposed to be a “stop-gap measure" against unemployment amid the financial crunch.

Under the NARS program, at least five nurses will be sent to each of the 1,000 poorest towns in the country and will be paid at least P8,000 monthly for a whole year. Arroyo also urged local governments to add at least P2,000 to the nurses’ salaries as allowances.

But according to Head, Arroyo is just exploiting the large number of skilled but unemployed and inexperienced nurses by offering them temporary jobs with lower pay rather than “a tenured position with the appropriate compensation." 

Rivera added that Arroyo just wants to show that she is doing something to address the health care needs of Filipinos and the worsening unemployment rate. 

“Unfortunately, the real bottom line for Mrs. Arroyo is still to force Filipino nurses to work abroad and send dollar-denominated remittances to stave off the effects of the global financial crisis," she said.

President Arroyo has previously said that she hopes for a day when working abroad would only be an option for Filipinos.

Security of tenure sought for Pinoy nurses in New Zealand

MANILA, Philippines — An organization of Filipino migrant workers in New Zealand appealed Thursday to the Nursing Council to approve the registration of qualified Filipino nurses who have been working for at least one year before implementing the new policy requiring nurses to take on second courses.

Dennis Maga, national coordinator of Migrante Aotearoa, said hundreds of Filipino nurses will be forced to go home and add to the growing number of jobless workers unless the Nursing Council approve their registration.

The new policy requires second courser to study for 2-3 semesters in New Zealand. Many Filipino nurses work as health care assistants or caregivers in New Zealand, receiving lower pay even as New Zealand hospitals are in need of nurses, Maga said.

Many nurses were very hopeful about finally getting their registration after they recently passed the English test, but the new policy shattered her dream of finally getting a license, Maga said.

Maga disclosed that some Filipino nurses have been forced to go home to the Philippines as they could not afford to pay around NZ$20,000 a year. 

“We hope that the council will take the right step in protecting the rights of Filipino nurses currently in New Zealand who have long waited for their registration under the old policy rather than impose a new policy that will force them to go home or find work elsewhere,"the group said.

“While it is the council’s job to assess the hundreds of applicants who are waiting in the Philippines, we believe it is also their job to recognize the service and protect the rights of those who are already here. We ask the council not to undermine the skills of Filipino nurses who deserve to get their license before the new policy was in place," Maga said.

In a letter addressed to Chief executive Carolyn Reed, Mr. Maga noted, “We do understand the council’s job to ensure that educational courses preparing Filipino nurses coming to New Zealand are meeting acceptable standards. But we hope there will be justice and compassion for the nurses who are already working here. They certainly deserve to be registered under the old policy as they already proved to be of good service to the New Zealand health care system."

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