Filipino nurse Jox Serrano has recently resigned from a Metro Manila private hospital to prepare for her new job and life in Britain.
“I have decided to work abroad to seek a better life for my family and healthy work conditions,” the 31-year-old health worker explained.
Serrano is among many Filipino nurses leaving home and working abroad due to low wages, poor working conditions, and delayed allowances and benefits, which has left the Philippines, a major supplier of migrant nurses globally, grappling with staffing shortages of healthcare workers.
According to the Department of Health, there are some 617,000 licensed nurses in the country, with only 28 percent, or about 172,000, working in public and private health facilities, while 51 percent have already migrated, and 21 percent are working in other fields.
Melvin Miranda, president of the Philippine Nurses Association, said nurses are quitting their jobs in private and public hospitals to work overseas where they can be much better paid.
Nurses in government hospitals get a monthly salary of around 530 U.S. dollars, while those in private hospitals earn 200 to 350 U.S. dollars per month, according to the association.
In addition, many nurses have overloaded work because of understaffing. In private medical facilities, each nurse cares for 21 patients, while in public hospitals around 40 to 60 patients share one nurse.
The Philippines has traditionally been a significant source of health professionals in the United States, Europe and some Middle East countries. Because of their fluency in the English language and skills in practicing compassion, patience, and caring, Filipino healthcare workers have been in great demand globally for decades.
But the massive migration of healthcare workers also leads to a shortage of hospital staff in the Philippines.
Jose Dante Dator, the head of a hospital in San Fernando City in Pampanga province, north of Manila, said that hiring nurses is the “biggest challenge” facing hospitals now.
“Everybody is aware that when we hire nurses locally, we don’t have as much response,” he said.
The nearly three-year-long COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation as the global demand for more health workers spikes.
In a report by the World Health Organization in 2020, there will be a shortfall of 4.6 million nurses worldwide by 2030. In the Philippines, the projected shortfall is nearly 250,000.
To address the shortage of hands, a government inter-agency is developing a “sustainability program” to plug the flow of nurses and healthcare workers.
The government has banned a decade-long ban on new undergraduate nursing programs, allowing more nursing schools to recruit students.
Philippine Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also called on healthcare workers to stay in Philippine hospitals. “We need your help so we can continue our operations in our facilities nationwide,” she said. ■