President Benigno Aquino III has rejected the proposed bill that would make a new comprehensive nursing law and strengthen the nursing profession, and he explained the reasons why in a veto message sent to Congress.
Here’s the full text of the letter to the speaker and members of the house of representatives dated June 14, 2016. Italics ours.
THE HONORABLE SPEAKER and Members of the House of Representatives
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Pursuant to Section 27 (1), Article VI of the Constitution, I am returning herewith the enrolled bill SB 2720/HB 6411, entitled:
“AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A COMPREHENSIVE NURSING LAW TOWARDS QUALITY HEALTHCARE SYSTEM, AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR” OR THE “COMPREHENSIVE NURSING LAW OF 2016”
without my signature.
While we recognize the objective of the bill to promote well-being of the country’s nurses, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences.
At the onset, it should be noted that the proposed increase in the minimum base pay for entry level nurses is a matter that we believe has already been adequately addressed through Executive Order No. 201 series of 2016. From an annual salary of P228,924.00, the total guaranteed compensation for entry level nurses have been increased to P344,074.00. Said figure doesn’t even include other benefits and allowances received by nurses, such as those granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health.
Likewise, to grant the proposed increase will not only undermine the existing salary structure of medical and health care practitioners, but will also cause wage distortion not only among health professionals but also among other professionals in the government service. To illustrate, the entry level salaries for health professionals, who underwent a four-year (i.e. medical technologists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, physical therapists, nutritionists, midwives and nurses, among others) are presently pegged at Salary Grade (SG) 11, while salaries for optometrists, dentists and doctors are set at SG 12, 14 and 16, respectively. Similarly, entry level salaries of other government professionals, such as teachers and accountants, are presently fixed at SG 11.
The proposed bill increasing the entry level salary for nurses by four grades places the salaries of nurses over and above their other similarly situated counterparts in the health profession and government service. Moreover, it would eliminate the distinction created as regards the salaries of other health professionals, such as optometrists and dentists, which will, in the event the proposed bill is passed, receive salaries lower than nurses.
Such preferential treatment in favor of nurses over and above other health professionals and professionals in the government service appears unconscionable and violative of the equal protection clause enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. To address the inequitable scenario brought about by the wage distortion, the salaries of the health professionals in the government service should simultaneously be considered for increase proportionate to the increase given to entry-level nurses. This will entail passage of several laws, the comprehensive review of entire existing salary structures of health professionals and other government employees, and a consequent exponential growth in the budgetary requirements of the government – which the proposed bill does not appear to have considered.
Further, the proposed increase seemingly disregards the financial capacity of most local government hospitals, which may not be able to comply with the mandated increase considering that the Local Government Code of 1991 prescribes the ceiling for Personnel Services expenditures at only 40-45%, depending on the income class of the local government unit involved.
Finally, this bill not only affects the fiscal concerns of the government, but also the financial viability of private hospitals and nongovernment health institutions, which are also mandated by the bill to offer an amount equivalent to SG-15 as minimum base pay for entry level nurses. The additional cost/expenses that this salary increase would entail may cause unintended repercussions, such as possible downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in the health care costs. This may similarly discourage continued private investments in the health care sector.
In view of these considerations, I am constrained to veto the abovementioned enrolled bill.
Very truly yours,
President Benigno Aquino
Senate President Franklin Drilon and the head of Presidential Legislative Liaison Office were also furnished copy of the veto letter.
Your thoughts, nurses, on the President’s explanation? Drop a comment below.