Gov’t idea to send ‘idle’ nurses back home lauded

Published by rudy Date posted on February 16, 2009

Members of the House of Representatives over the weekend voiced support to a government move to assign Filipino nurses in their hometowns while waiting for employment opportunities abroad.

According to Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, chairman of the House committee on labor and employment, the effort would prove to be beneficial to both the government and these idle professionals.

The program, called “Nurses Assigned in Rural Areas (NARS),” was launched by President Arroyo Monday last week and has been given a budget of P500 million.

“The NARS program was included in the Labor Summit held in Malacañang last Monday. It will provide the nurses the experience they need to qualify for local and overseas jobs in health facilities,” Gunigundo said.

A total of 5,000 Filipino nurses would be deployed to the country’s 1,000 poorest municipalities, at five nurses a municipality. They will be reportedly paid a monthly allowance of P8,000 and Mrs. Arroyo asked local government units to shoulder at least P2,000 more.

Pasay City Rep. Antonio Roxas, a physician, lauded the move, saying that like doctors, these nurses would do a lot to improve the health services in the barrios.

“Just like doctors, we need to assign our nurses all over the country, especially in areas where there are no doctors. Let our nurses stay there until such time job placements abroad are back,” he said.

For Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro, the plan is an “expedient” one, especially during these times of financial crisis.

“This effort, however, must be coupled with long-term and permanent employment opportunities for nurses here and abroad. The government should facilitate the large demand for nurses due to the high number of patients by giving them stable jobs in public hospitals,” he, though, added.

He said private hospitals should also be tapped by the government to ensure there are equal employment opportunities for Filipino nurses.

“They should be given the opportunity to serve the country and earn a decent living as well,” he stressed.

Relatedly, a hospital in the country’s eastern region of Bicol is opening up its residency program to doctors from impoverished Nepal to address a shortage of Filipino physicians, a news report said yesterday.

Some 40 Nepalese doctors are vying to be admitted at the state-run Bicol Medical Center in Naga City, where they will be assigned to departments including paediatrics, surgery and internal medicine, the Inquirer said.

The Nepalese doctors will undergo their residency training for four years, but will not be allowed to practice privately in the Philippines. They will pay about 3,000 dollars each for a chance to train with Filipino doctors in a hospital system largely molded on the US model, it said.

Ruben Penafrel, officer-in-charge at the hospital, said some of the Nepalese doctors may be asked to extend their stay to help solve “the severe shortage of doctors at government hospitals”.

He said another hospital in the central Philippines was considering taking in more than 30 Nepalese doctors.

About 1,000 Nepalese doctors look for residency each year in medical facilities across Asia based on the US system to sharpen their skills and because there are only a few hospitals in their country, the report said.

The Philippines is experiencing a shortage of doctors amid a mass exodus of physicians to the United States, where they get higher pay. Others retrain to become nurses, who are in short supply in the US, the Philippine Medical Association says.

Charlie V. Manalo and AFP

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