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Bong Go calls for the lifting of deployment ban on nurses

Bong Go
Bong Go

SENATOR and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go issued an appeal for a calibrated lifting of a temporary suspension imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration on the overseas deployment of nurses and other nursing personnel.

He argued that the move would benefit out-of-work nurses, many of whom had approved overseas employment contracts but were prevented from departing the country due to the delayed release of their visas as a result of the office closures at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“World-class po ang ating mga medical professionals. Kailangan ang serbisyo nila sa buong mundo. May sinumpaan sila sa kanilang trabaho na sumalba ng buhay kahit sinuman, kahit saan man,” Go previously said.

“Ang pakikipag-bayanihan natin upang malampasan ang krisis na ito ay hindi limitado sa bansa natin lamang. We also recognize the invaluable service that our medical professionals are doing in different parts of the world,” he continued.

On this note, Go renewed his call to government to ensure that the welfare and rights of overseas Filipino workers are respected abroad, from deployment to their return, according to the laws of the receiving country and the Philippines.

The Senator also recommended that relevant authorities determine a ceiling for deployment figures to ensure a stable supply of nurses in the country while boosting the number of newly-hired Filipino health workers abroad which fell drastically following the imposition of the ban.

On April 2, the POEA issued an order banning the deployment of all health workers after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agency released a resolution on April 13 which provided an exemption to health workers with signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8.

Consistent with his position on the matter, Go earlier urged government in September to extend the cut-off date from March 8 to August 31 and allow more nurses and health workers with signed contracts abroad to fulfill their obligations. The President approved such recommendation.

“Kawawa naman ang mga healthcare professionals na mayroon nang pirmadong mga kontrata pero hindi makaalis dahil sa deployment ban. Ang iba sa kanila ay naipit sa Pilipinas ng walang trabaho, at gumastos na ng malaking halaga para asikasuhin ang mga dokumento para sa kani-kanilang deployment. Magmalasakit tayo sa kanila dahil kabuhayan nila ang nakataya dito,” he had said.

The senator also expressed concern for the nurses and other health workers in the country who are confronting increased risks and an ever-growing workload. He stressed that government must continue to protect their welfare in recognition of their sacrifices and dedication to provide critical and urgent services.

After issuing various appeals on the matter, Go also welcomed President Duterte’s recent decision to grant a Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and an Active Hazard Duty Pay (AHDP) to the country’s medical frontliners.

The provision of SRA and AHDP is in line with Republic Act No. 11494, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which directs the national government to provide an SRA to public and private health workers working directly with COVID-19 patients, and an AHDP to all Human Resources for Health personnel who are similarly serving in the frontlines.

Go had also been urging the government to grant more assistance and protection to the medical frontliners, such as the provision of personal protective equipment, inclusion in the COVID-19 testing protocol and additional pay, among others.

“Bigyan natin ng pansin ang mga kapakanan ng ating frontliners – mga health workers, doctors at nurses. Pakinggan at tulungan natin sila dahil sila ang mga sundalong araw-araw na humaharap sa kalabang hindi naman nakikita at inilalagay ang buhay sa panganib upang magtagumpay ang ating bansa sa hamon na dala ng COVID-19,” Go had said.####