Nurses protest to call for higher salary, better working conditions
MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of nurses urged the government to implement a salary increase and better working conditions during the Nurses' National Day of Protest on Friday, November 8.
Protesters gathered in front of the University of Santo Tomas and marched towards Kartilya ng Katipunan in Manila.
"Na-frustrate kami basically kay Secretary Duque sa ganoong pahayag dahil hindi namin nakita sa kanya 'yung pagiging...ama ng mga health professionals, pagiging ama ng mga nurses," Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) president Erlinda Palaganas said.
(We were basically frustrated with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III's remarks because we didn't see that he is serving as a father to health professionals, a father to nurses.)
Duque had said that a salary increase for nurses will not be implemented in 2020 since it was not included in the proposed budget of the Department of Health. A separate law would be required for budget appropriation.
The Supreme Court had ruled in October that nurses' pay be increased from Salary Grade 11 to Salary Grade 15.
Under Salary Grade 15, nurses are expected to earn at least P30,531 monthly. According to Palaganas, some private nurses currently earn as low as P4,000 a month in the province of Abra.
"How can the nurses take care of the country's health if they are overworked and underpaid?" she asked.
Palaganas also cited the unjust working hours of nurses and the inappropriate ratio of nurses to patients. In some hospitals, she said, there is only one nurse in a ward.
"Nurses who are underpaid and overworked can never efficiently deliver the quality health services they are supposed to deliver," she added.
For the PNA, there should be respect and equal treatment. "We want the respect that you give to the doctors. We want the respect that you give to lawyers," Palaganas said.
'No. 1 exporter'
Given the current conditions, some Filipino nurses continue to work in the country only for a few years to gain experience before eventually heading for other countries.
"The Philippines has always been considered the No. 1 exporter of nurses in the entire world," Palaganas said.
"If indeed the nurses will be given better salaries, better working conditions, it can slow down the migration of nurses out of the Philippines."
Palaganas also said there are "more than enough" nurses in the country, but many choose to work in other industries that pay better.
"The only situation is that these nurses are not found where they are supposed to be found. They’re not found [at] the bedside, they're not found in the school, they're not found in the communities," she said.
"There are bills to pay and so, therefore, they would rather go to a kind of job that would pay them well or better than working for 8 hours, working for 12 hours, working for 16 hours, yet they are not compensated well."
Melbert Reyes, vice president of the PNA, worked as a nurse for 10 years before leaving to teach in a university.
"Mas masarap maglingkod sa kapwa. Pero mahirap kasing balikan kapag walang assurance na makakabuhay ng pamilya 'yung ibibigay sa 'yo," he said.
(It's more fulfilling to serve others. But it's difficult to return to nursing when there's no assurance that your salary would be enough for raising a family.)
During his time working at a private hospital in Rizal back in 2017, Reyes said he was only earning about P8,000 a month.
Palaganas said the PNA is already lobbying for the law needed to appropriate the budget for government nurses.
"Very symbolic para sa amin ang pupunta sa Kartilya ng Katipunan dahil dadalhin namin doon 'yung mga modern-day issues ng mga nurses at hindi lang ng mga nurses kundi ng buong mamamayang Pilipino," she said.
(It's very symbolic for us to go to Kartilya ng Katipunan because we're bringing the modern-day issues of nurses, and not just of nurses but of all Filipinos.)