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Roque: Pay hike to preserve private sector nurses’ dignity

Harry Roque

UniTeam senatorial aspirant Harry Roque today promised to address the huge salary disparity between government and private hospital nurses at the forefront of the country’s battle against Covid-19.

Roque, the principal author of the Universal Health Care law, lamented the low salary of nurses in private-run hospitals as “a disservice to their life-saving heroics in this age of pandemic.”

He said: “It would be ideal to mandate through legislation the salary increment of nurses in the private sector to ensure their dignified existence and better career prospects pursuant to the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.”

The former presidential spokesman said he would apply the equal protection clause to narrow the salary gap between private and government nurses.

“This would hopefully arrest the exodus of nurses to other sectors like the call center industry or overseas employment at this crucial juncture of our pandemic recovery efforts,” Roque said.

Data from the Department of Labor of Employment indicate that registered nurses hired at hospitals usually receive an average monthly salary of P9,757. In contrast, an entry-level nurse has a base salary of P8,000.

Meanwhile, a 2018 joint study conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the UP Population Institute disclosed that full-time nursing professionals’ average monthly wage rate is P14, 942.

The National Migration Survey (NMS) said this wage level suggests that nurses live just above the 2018 per-capita poverty threshold level for a household of five.

The salary of entry-level government nurses was upgraded to P33,575 by the Department of Budget and Management in 2020.

Roque recalled calling attention to the increased migration of health professionals when he filed House Bill 02935 as a party-list representative in 2016.

He said he would like to refile the bill, which seeks to limit the consecutive work hours of nurses to not more than 40 hours in a seven-day workweek, in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

Roque cited that migrating nurses deplored the low salary and long hours of work as reasons for leaving the country.

In the original version of the bill, health care employers are prohibited from requiring nurses to work more than their regularly scheduled work hours except during a health care disaster or emergency.

However, before requiring an on-duty nurse to remain in an emergency, health care employers shall make a reasonable faith effort to have the overtime covered voluntarily.

This shall include calling per diems, agency nurses, assigning floats, or requesting an additional day off from off-duty nurses. Violators shall be fined P100,000 on top of other damages imposed by the court.

According to the NMS, 59 percent or most of the country’s working health professionals are nurses. There are 488,800 health professionals based on a 2015 national census.

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