By: Adrian Chester Inojales
Both students and faculty of Ateneo de Davao University’s School of Nursing (SoN) vented their frustrations as their hopes were dashed with President Benigno Aquino III vetoing the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2016 last June 16.
The Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2016 traces itself as a combination of consolidated House Bill No. 6411 and Senate Bill No. 2720 which seeks to raise the professional standard of nurses in the Philippines as an improved version of Republic Act No. 9163 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.
And yet confused, disappointed
To Yves Angelo Espino, a 3rd Year nursing student, he does not seem to understand why the bill was vetoed at the first place when it would greatly help nurses in the Philippines to be actually paid for their worth and at the same time, their efforts at work.
Espino praises his counterparts, the professional nurses, saying that they are resourceful, respectful, and respectable, and who treat their patients with quality care as if the patients were their own family or loved one.
Espino adds that he does not understand why would Aquino reject and veto the bill that he thinks has the best interests of nurses at heart while Joseph Dayot is also disappointed, saying that “. . . being a nurse is one of the most difficult yet underestimated professions.”
Dayot argues his choice of course “. . . is not just a profession. It is a calling.” He also says that doing rounds with patients for almost eight hours everyday and not getting compensated properly for it clearly shows that the Aquino does not command enough knowledge to see how difficult and challenging it is to be nurse.
“The salary should be increased or else, all the nurses might go abroad and we’ll have a Philippines left with none,” Dayot further warns.
The faculty of the School of Nursng did not even bother to have reservations in being outspoken against Aquino’s veto.
Hazel Facundo, a faculty of the said department saw the veto as an “inhumane act”, commenting that the lack of a salary hike adds more weight and burden to nurses around the country.
She also warns the same situation as described by Dayot, saying that, “It gives us a good justification to go abroad and to seek for higher salaries.”
Another side of the coin
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a press conference after Aquino’s veto, said the government is simply ensuring that it is being fair to all workers and that the nurses’ appeal for higher wages, along with teachers and other employees, had been addressed through performance-based compensation.
Aquino further argued in his veto message that the base pay for entry level was already increased through Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016 which guaranteed their total annual compensation from P228,924 or P19,077 per month to P344,074 or P28,672.83 per month.
A medical worker exodus
On the other hand, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that since 2012, there had already been a steady increase of Filipino nurses deploying themselves to foreign destinations in search of higher paying medical jobs.
POEA’s data showed that the deployment of Filipino nurses abroad continued to rise from 15,655 in 2012, 16,44 in 2013, and 19,815 in 2014.
POEA attributes its numbers due to Filipino medical workers are in demand in countries in the Middle East as well they have been long been popular work destinations for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
The exodus of valuable medical know-how has led the Department of Health (DOH) and other medical experts and think-tanks to conclude that it is one of the deciding factors which prevents the government from fully implementing its Universal Healthcare program.
Photo courtesy of A. Umil, Bulatlat.com