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Philippines suffers from
hemorrhage of nurses

Rose Gonzalez, a nursing graduate turned public relations practitioner for seven years, is leaving in a few weeks to work at the Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Maryland, USA.

Having returned to her original profession, she is one of the scores of Filipinas who find that nursing is now the “sure” ticket for a better-paying job abroad—and the shortest route to immigrant status.

Government figures report that some 2,908 Filipino nurses left for 21 countries in the first quarter of 2002. In the previous year, some 13,536 Filipino nurses left for 31 countries. Major destinations were the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Ireland.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said only 304 nurses left for the US in 2001. This figure, however, is “grossly underreported.”

Figures from the International Union of Nurses said that close to 10,000 Filipino nurses were directly hired by US-based hospitals in 2001 through various nursing job fairs held in the Philippines. Nurses who leave on immigrant visas are not processed by the POEA.

The annual outflow of Filipino nurses is now three times greater than the annual production of licensed nurses, said Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez-Tan, vice chancellor for research at the University of the Philippines in Manila, and executive director of the National Institutes of Health Philippines.

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), through the Board of Nursing, issues licenses to only 6,500 to 7,000 nurses a year.

“Sadly, this is no longer brain drain, but more appropriately, brain hemorrhage of our nurses,” he said. “Very soon, the Philippines will be bled dry of nurses.”

For some, like Dr. Teresita I. Barcelo, that situation is already here. Barcelo is vice chancellor for academic affairs of the UP-Open University, and a professor at the UP College of Nursing.

Global need

Tan said the shortage of nurses in the developed countries would not just be for a year or two, but for at least the next 10 to 15 years.

“It will no longer be the roller-coaster demand for foreign graduate nurses that was seen in the last 35 years. This time, it will be a persistent, chronic need.”

He explains: The developed countries are experiencing a longer lifespan and the “graying of their population.” But their youth population is not interested in the nursing profession because of the difficult and risky work conditions such as evening duties, taking care of the chronically ill and exposure to HIV/AIDS. More options are also available to them to take on other professions that offer better pay and working conditions.

The solution for these countries: hire foreign nurses to do the job. Based on statements made by their respective governments, the US would need around 10,000 nurses a year, while the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and other European countries would need another 10,000 nurses a year.

Austria and Norway also announced their need for foreign nurses this year and Japan, a new market, is expected to open its doors to foreign nurses this year.

Local shortage?

Here in the Philippines, experts qualify their answers on whether there is a shortage of nurses here.

Dr. Marilyn E. Lorenzo, director of the Institute of Health Policy and Development Studies and a professor at the UP College of Public Health, said “in absolute terms, there is no shortage. There are enough warm bodies here, but there is a shortage in terms of quality.”

The ones who have left are the skilled and experienced nurses. Most of those who are still here are relatively unskilled and inexperienced, and this poses serious implications on the quality of health care that they provide.

“Most people think there is a shortage because of the high staff turnover in hospitals. The truth is, nurses are now more mobile, because they have more options,” observed Nesie B. Dionisio, member of the Board of Nursing of the PRC.

Where are the nurses then? They move to urban areas—where there is higher pay, and better chances to be hired. After they get enough experience, say, one to two years, they leave the country to work abroad.

Dionisio adds: “The government contributes to the artificial shortage because it has not opened new positions. And the ones who left have not been replaced.”

The government is the single biggest employer of nurses here. While nurses prefer to work in government hospitals because of the higher pay than in private hospitals, there are no openings, said Dionisio.

Health does not seem a priority, and the government has yet to increase the health budget. Because most hospitals are understaffed, working conditions are far from ideal—average nurse-patient ratios range from 1:30 to 1:60.


This post first appeared on Nurse, please read the originial post: here

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