Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today lamented the lingering shortage of nurses and nursing aides in the more than 43,000 public schools across the country despite the huge volume of nursing students graduating annually.
Gordon said he finds it very ironic that while the country prides itself of producing the best graduates of medical and other health-related courses, the poor public school pupils hardly benefit from adequate medical attention.
"Our young people enroll to nursing schools because they see the world's increasing demand for health workers. Our country badly needs them too, especially in our public schools," he said.
"Sadly though, our best nursing graduates prefer to work overseas because of the low salary they receive here," he added, mindful that a new registered nurse gets a salary of $39,000 annually.
According to the , a nurse in the government service supposedly should receive a monthly salary of P16,000.00, but many nurses are still receiving less than P10,000 monthly income.
Due to the huge difference in nurse's salary here and abroad, Gordon pointed out that nursing graduates prefer to work overseas, thereby leaving the country with an overworked and underpaid local nursing sector.
"If we fail to address the problem of medical workers' low remuneration, we also fail to solve the country's staggering lack of health workers in public schools," he said.
At present, there are only 3,254 nurses attending to more than 17 million pupils in the 43,000 public schools across the country. This means that one nurse looks after 5,000 pupils.
Last June, only 27,765 out of the 64,459 nursing graduates passed the . The figure translates to a 43 percent passing rate.
"What will happen to the remaining 37,194 examinees who did not pass the nursing board? Instead of having them wait for opportunities to work as domestic helper or caregiver abroad, we should give them jobs here in our own country," Gordon said.
The Senator said that in his "text-for-change" measure, the problem of the exodus – and thus, the lack – of medical and health workers will be addressed and they will be given proper remuneration.
"Once the bill is enacted into law, we will have appropriate funds to hire the needed medical and health practitioners for our public schools and we can provide them with proper remuneration and other benefits. They will no longer have to work abroad and expose themselves to the dangers," he said.
Under the Health and Education Acceleration Program (HEAP), more registered nurses would be designated to public schools, while those who did not pass the nurse licensure examination can be employed as nursing aides.
The HEAP bill seeks to fill in the gap in the country's health and education facility and manpower requirements by requiring telecommunications companies to remit part of their net earnings from local text messages to fund the program. (30)