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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

UK envoy: Employ RP nurses at home first

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Before the Philippines could start sending out Filipino health care workers in droves abroad, it should first begin populating its hospitals with nurses.

The current surplus in Filipino nurses should be used by the government to care for its own people, said newly installed British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie.

“You have a lot of nurses in the Philippines but there are some parts of the Philippines that do not have nurses," Lillie said on Thursday.

Although the British government is proud that its health care system has Filipino nurses, Lillie said the UK would eventually want to be self-sustaining.

There are about 250,000 Filipinos staying in the United Kingdom, most of whom are working in the health care industry.

Aside from the promise of more than 20 times the salary for nurses in the Philippines, Filipino nurses are often lured to work in the UK in hopes of petitioning their families to live with them there.

But Lillie said the UK is not like Canada or Australia which encourages immigration of foreign workers and their families.

“We want our health care service to be self-sustaining," he added.

Since 2005, the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) noted that the demand for Filipino nurses in countries like the UK, US, and Canada have already reached their quotas, causing thousands of fresh graduates to cease finding employment overseas.

The number of unemployed Filipino nurses was estimated at 400,000 in 2008.

Then PNA National President Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz said the perceived oversupply of nurses is really caused by the inability of Philippine hospitals to create additional plantilla positions for fresh graduates.

Back to the barangay

To absorb the surplus of Filipino nurses, the government created a program to send them to hospitals in rural areas for training.

Under the Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS) program, which the British government has also been supporting, unemployed nurses will be made to return to their hometowns for a six-month tour of duty and will be given P8,000 a month as stipend or allowance. (For more information click on the Department of Labor and Employment’s website)

But Jackson Gan, vice president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, said the program only addresses the temporary employment of nurses but it would not make them attractive abroad. [See: NARS won't make RP nurses attractive abroad]

“Trained nurses in specialty areas like surgical wards, burn ICU (Intensive Care Unit), neo-natal ICU, cardiac cath lab, nursery nurses, pedia, cardio-vascular, emergency, therapy, and clinical wards, which are in demand in the Middle East and Western countries like the USA, UK, Australia and Canada," Gan said.

He said funds for the NARS program should be diverted instead to the improvement of government hospital facilities in both rural and urban areas “so that more nurses can be hired in those areas and accumulate the training needed for work abroad." - GMANews.TV

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