The Department of Health appreciates the interest of the legislators on the plight of the health workers in the Philippines, particularly nurses, many of whom remain unemployed or underemployed. We should address the genuine underlying causes of the country’s health workforce problems. This gives the DOH an excellent opportunity to draw attention to the whole picture of the current situation.
“While it is true that the Nurses Deployment Program (NDP) reduced the number of hired nurses by 6,970 in 2017, nobody will really lose their job (for those currently hired in the program) because the nature of such hiring is on a contractual basis not a permanent one. The proposed 2017 budget for the program raised their salaries and therefore, after adjustments, resulted in fewer hires,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial explained.
The NDP can hire nurses at higher than usual salary rates because the work is a short-term contract, the longest is one year with two 6-months contracts. The idea is to provide experience and eventually absorb the good performers in the available permanent government posts. Around 12% of the deployed nurses are eventually hired into permanent posts in government hospitals or public health offices.
In contrast to the nurses, only 70% of the slots for doctors in the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) Deployment Program were filled up in 2016. This means that despite the available positions and budget in DTTB, 30% of the available slots remained vacant.
The DOH Deployment Program for doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, and medical technologists is generally successful but it is still only a short-term, stopgap measure. In recent years, the supply of nurses in the Philippines markedly increased in response to high demand for nurses in foreign countries facing shortages. Some doctors even re-trained to become nurses just to go abroad. Now, the international demand for nurses has declined resulting in the rise in local unemployment of nurses.
Currently the DOH is advocating for the following to address these issues:
- Providing exemption of the health workforce (doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, medical technologists, nutritionists, physical therapists, and other allied medical professionals) in the budget fixed for personnel services. This will allow the LGUs to hire health personnel according to the needs of their growing population. This is true employment – not the short-term job orders offered by the DOH.
- Fast-tracking the creation of additional personnel positions in hospitals whose bed capacities have been increased. Many government hospitals are forced to continue to function with staff support below their actual bed capacity.
- Enacting laws to raise the working conditions and provide flexible incentives for health workers in rural areas such as support for housing, child education, continuing professional education and career development through the entire health system, including the DOH. Many local government health officers are not given permanent positions or designations because of the changing political affiliations in local government. Health workers should be given better civil service protection from these political changes.
“The DOH is committed to provide health professionals with the necessary support they need to implement effective and efficient programs of the Philippine Health Agenda. We salute the health workers. Without them, all of these efforts would be nothing. Despite of your numerous tasks, one thing will never change; that is your passion to deliver All for Health towards Health for All,” Secretary Ubial concluded.