Gordon questions nurse deployment ban

Senator Richard J. Gordon on Tuesday questioned the rule of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), an attached agency of the Department of Labor of Employment (DOLE), in restricting the overseas deployment to just 5,000 nurses within a calendar year.

“Violation ng constitution ‘yan. You have no right to stop somebody seeking employment abroad. In fact, kung gusto nila kahit may giyera di mo puwede pigilan ‘yan,” manifested Gordon during his interpellation of the DOLE’s 2022 budget allocation.

“I’m saying [the restrictions] may be attacked as arbitrary, excessive and oppressive. That’s my position,” he added.

The POEA temporarily stopped the deployment of newly-hired nurses and healthcare workers overseas and halted the issuance of Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC) for nurses after the agency reached the annual deployment cap quota last June.

According to data provided by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), there are currently 512,719 licensed nurses in the country, while there are only 165,361 employed in private and public health facilities.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was also quoted in a 2021 radio interview that there had been an “oversupply” of nurses in the country, which counters the point of the deployment ban.

Gordon said the current restrictions violate Article II, Section 9 of the 1987 Constitution that provides for the improvement in living standards through policies that promote full employment, whether locally or abroad.

He previously appealed to the IATF and POEA to reconsider the restrictive measure as seven nurses who were then applying in Qatar faced a similar predicament.

In the letter, Gordon argued that the deployment of nurses abroad can help alleviate the country’s unemployment problem and improve its struggling economy through dollar remittances.

On June 18, POEA Administrator Atty. Bernardo P. Olalia informed Gordon that the IATF passed Resolution 122 on June 17, which allows the increase of healthcare workers’ annual deployment ceiling to 6,500 from the 5,000 cap.

As a long-time advocate of the health sector, Gordon continuously promotes the welfare of every health worker in the country by creating policies that are beneficial to them.

Last year, he filed a bill amending Republic Act 9173 or The Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which provides a new comprehensive policy for Filipino nurses that will give them opportunities to advance themselves in the nursing field while they serve the country’s growing needs for healthcare professionals.

According to the law, the minimum base pay for nurses working in government hospitals and health institutions should start at salary grade 15 or P31,545 per month.

Under the ‘Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’, Gordon proposed that P1 million shall be given to the families of public and private health workers who contracted Covid-19 and died while on duty, while health workers who are severely afflicted by the virus shall be given P100,000 each.

He has also recently co-authored Senate Bill 2371, a measure granting the continued benefits of essential healthcare workers, including nurses, who risk their lives in relieving suffering and saving lives, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It mandates the continuing grant of the special risk allowance (SRA) and other benefits to both public and private health workers.