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‘No point in restraining healthcare workers from leaving for abroad’

THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases should reconsider the 5,000-annual limit on the number of newly hired Filipino healthcare workers that may be allowed to leave the country for overseas employment, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said on Sunday.

“Exit quotas or similar restrictions are not really desirable because they tend to expose individuals to potential exploitation – from the time they apply for overseas employment certificates up to their point of departure in immigration counters,” said Defensor, House health committee vice chairperson.

“As far as we’re concerned, there’s really no point in restraining our healthcare workers from leaving for abroad, if we can’t provide them good-paying jobs here at home,” Defensor said.

“If they’ve already received hiring notices from foreign employers, we should just allow them to leave,” Defensor said.

“While we recognize the need to lessen the loss of mission-critical skills, we also have to be mindful of the State’s constitutional duty to promote a rising standard of living and improved quality of life for all Filipinos, including our healthcare workers and their families,” Defensor said.

“We must also stress that every Filipino enjoys the right to sell his or her skills to the best employer here or abroad that will offer the greatest reward,” Defensor said.

Nurses comprise the largest group of newly hired healthcare workers leaving the country every year, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Defensor is author of House Bill (HB) 7933, which seeks to double to P60,901 the entry-level monthly pay for government nurses to discourage at least some of them from seeking greener pasture overseas.

The 14 categories of newly hired healthcare workers covered by the 5,000 single combined annual deployment cap are medical doctors, nurses, microbiologists, molecular biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, x-ray technicians, nursing assistants, operators of medical equipment, supervisors of health services and personal care and repairmen of medical-hospital equipment.

The ceiling excludes healthcare workers who are merely returning to their foreign employers.