5,000 public nurses sought; 11,000 apply

Published by rudy Date posted on April 1, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—As jobs become scarce, more than 11,000 nurses have scrambled to gain a slot in the government’s emergency employment program for 5,000 nurses in the countryside, officials said Tuesday.

“More than 11,000 applied,” Labor Undersecretary Lily Pineda said. “But we expected more because there were close to 40,000 new board passers.”

After a two-day orientation beginning Wednesday, the 5,000 nurses will be deployed on Friday to treat patients in hospitals and attend to the sick in far-flung barangays (villages) in 1,000 municipalities with high incidence of poverty.

The deployment is part of the Nurses Assigned to Rural Service (NARS), an emergency employment-cum-training program for nurses. The program will cost P500 million.

The program seeks to address the growing number of registered nurses in the country who have been unemployed since passing the nursing board examination and lack the experience to work abroad.

Second batch

The 6,000 applicants who failed to get a slot, however, should not sulk. They will be given priority in the next installment of the NARS program later this year, said Pineda, head of the NARS program.

After six months, the government will be hiring a new batch of 5,000 nurses for another six-month employment-cum-training program. The program will be implemented only for a year.

Perhaps the job’s biggest come-on is the P8,000 monthly stipend for the province-based nurses, an amount that is higher than the minimum wage in the regions, which ranges from P5,000 to more than P6,000, Pineda said.

Nowadays, nurses pay for their training in hospitals.

“While undergoing free training, they will get P8,000,” the labor official said.

Under the program, the nurses will spend the first three months working in a government hospital, and the next three in a rural health unit, or vice versa.

Wellness warriors

At the program’s launch in February, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo referred to NARS participants as “wellness warriors.”

To save on transportation and accommodation expenses, the government will hire licensed nurses from any of the 1,000 municipalities or nearby municipalities. Five nurses will be deployed in each town.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said the nurses would have a job cut out for them:

• Initiate primary health, school nutrition and maternal health programs, and first line diagnosis.

• Inform the people about community water sanitation practices and conduct health surveillance.

• Immunize children and mothers.

Roving nurses

They will also serve as roving nurses for rural schools.

In the hospital, they will do the rounds and attend to patients under the supervision of the chief nurse, according to Pineda.

“In the barangays, these so-called wellness warriors will diagnose the health condition of the people, provide vaccines say for TB (tuberculosis) and vitamins as necessary,” she said.

They will not only fill the shortfall in medical workers in rural areas but also get to serve the people, particularly those with poor access to medical services, Pineda said.

Training module

The training module, which covers both clinical and public health functions, was designed by the Department of Health, in coordination with the Professional Regulatory Commission’s Board of Nurses.

While this is a government project, the Philippine Nurses Association and other groups are offering services to guide the nurses, according to Pineda.

“This gives them employment and at the same time, helps them gain experience for eventual employment in government and private hospitals,” she said.

The training will be considered a substitute for the work experience requirement of hospitals and other health facilities in the country and abroad, and completion will entitle a nurse to a certificate, according to the labor department.

“We’re hoping that after the training they will be absorbed by government hospitals,” Pineda said.

500 in Bicol

In the Bicol region, the NARS program has hired more than 500 nurses.

Ernesto Bihis, DoLE regional director, said the nurses, who were unemployed for several years and have relatives who went jobless abroad, were given priority under the program.

Bihis said some P5.3 million had been allocated for Bicol under the program.

A total of 555 nurses will be assigned to cover its six provinces.

Camarines Sur will get the biggest number of nurses at 170 for 34 municipalities; Masbate, 105 nurses for all 20 municipalities and one city; Sorsogon, 80 nurses for 14 towns and one city; Catanduanes, 45 nurses for nine municipalities; and Albay, five nurses to serve the poorest barangays in Legazpi City.

The newly hired nurses will be deployed at an average of five per town in the third- (annual income: P30 million-P40 million) and sixth-class municipalities (below P60 million) for a six-month tour-of-duty.

Bihis said the second batch would be deployed in October.–TJ Burgonio, Eugene Nuñez,Inquirer Southern Luzon

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