POEA says only 600 health workers are affected by the deployment ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) - The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said only 600 healthcare workers -- particularly nurses -- are affected by the total deployment ban on healthcare workers.

POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia said this is based on the information the agency received from the Philippine Nurses Association.

During the Senate Labor Committee hearing on Tuesday, Olalia said the Labor Department has already recommended the lifting of ban with respect to these 600 nurses.

Olalia added that the Inter-Agency Task Force has also implemented exemptions in the deployment ban.

He said this allowed at least 300 healthcare workers to be deployed overseas every month since March this year.

“Iyong mga nurses na may (Those nurses with) perfected contracts as of March 8, 2020 will be allowed to fly, iyong mga balik-manggagawa natin (our returning workers). These are the nurses who went home for vacation and they are returning to the same employer, they will be allowed to be deployed,” said Olalia.

“Iyong ating mga government hires (Those hired by the government), which are covered by bilateral labor agreement na may kontrata (who have contracts) prior to March 8 will be processed and allowed to be deployed.”

In an earlier interview, a group of nurses appealed to lift the total deployment ban on healthcare workers.

The Filipino Nurses United said that there are about 200 thousand to 240 thousand nurses who are unemployed or underemployed.

Citing the same figures, recruitment agencies are also calling for the lifting of the deployment ban as the country still have enough health workers that can be tapped.

Government officials have repeatedly said that the ban is put in place due to concerns that the Philippines will have shortage of needed nurses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the hearing today, Health Assistant Secretary Kenneth Ronquillo said hospitals and health facilities said 10,468 slots are needed to be filled up by health workers such as doctors, nurses, medical technologists and other health workers.

As of now, 7,850 health workers have been hired---- while 2,616 slots have yet to be filled up.

Ronquillo added about 1,700 overseas Filipino healthcare workers are in the country right now.

However, only 109 submitted their documents for application to work here in the Philippines.

“As we speak today, out of the 1,700 only 209 manifested to be employed. And out of the 209 who manifested to be employed, 109 submitted their documents. And as of today, 3 has been offered jobs and 2 are still to be interviewed,” Ronquillo said.

Senate Labor Committee Chairman Joel Villanueva believes the problem is the lack of benefits and lack of security of tenure for healthcare workers in the country.

Healthcare workers that will be hired by the government will only work until the end of the year.

Ronquillo, however, says while the contract is only until Dec 31 this year---- it may still be extended once the 2021 national budget has been passed.

He said nurses that will be hired will be given a salary grade of 15 and get a basic pay of 32 thousand pesos plus other benefits and allowances.

“This will improve, kasi sa Bayanihan Act 2 meron kami in-include doon kagaya ng mga additional allowances, duty allowances not just for government health workers catering to COVID, but also private health workers catering to COVID. And yung kanilang life insurance,” Ronquillo explained.

[Translation: This will improve, because in Bayanihan 2, we included that there additional allowances, duty allowances not just for government health workers catering to COVID, but also for private health workers catering to COVID. Their life insurance is also included.]