Editorial: Critical case of hospital workers

Ailing health workers. Public and private hospital employees are impeded from serving patients and their families to their utmost because of low pay, long shifts, large number of patients served per nurse and other conditions affecting work performance. (File Photo)

The Chong Hua Hospital Cebu workers’ unresolved demand of a P60 daily wage increase is just the tip of the iceberg representing the woes of hospitals in the country facing a serious drain of personnel due to low pay, long hours, work stress and other unhealthy work conditions.

The private hospital is one of the busiest operating in Cebu City. Yet, hospital employees of the Cebu branch were given an increase of P10 a day only in 2016, 2017 and 2018, reported SunStar Cebu’s Wenilyn B. Sabalo last Aug. 27, 2019.

Rank-and-file workers—including about 400 nurses, ambulance drivers, medical technologists, cashiers, nurse aides and pharmacists—filed a notice of strike after 826 members of the Chong Hua Hospital Employees Union-Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines voted “yes” in a strike vote, with 13 voting “no” and three abstaining.

Striking hospital workers may not be the only cause for crippling operations. The current working conditions affecting hospital rank-and-file employees already affect the delivery of health services to the public.

This public health issue affects even private hospital employees, who supposedly claim better pay and benefits than employees of public hospitals.

Even though the costs of hospitalization, medical procedures and other related services have skyrocketed, rank-and-file employees in private hospitals seemingly have not benefited.

Ironically, as hospitals aggressively compete in beefing up their roster of medical consultants, upgrading their facilities and equipment and opening new branches in unserved areas of Metro Cebu to attract more patients coming from outlying areas, the rank-and-file staff, who are at the frontline carrying out the orders of doctors and other medical specialists in managing patients’ health, have yet to reap the rewards of the extremely profitable health business.

Based on anecdotes of staff nurses employed in a private hospital located in uptown Cebu City (names withheld upon request), nurses work a regular 12-hour shift but are often required to work for 16 hours when there is a shortage of nurses due to illness or unexplained absence. A nurse may cater to 18 in-patients at a time, resulting in infrequent visits to monitor patients in hospital rooms, mistakes in following up the due medicines prescribed for patients and other lapses that affect the patients’ safety and well-being.

Families of patients resort to hiring personal caregivers who will ensure that the patient receives the due medication on schedule, monitors the vital signs, cleans the patient and changes beddings, and often answers questions pertaining to the patient posed by consultants who have questions about the patient’s case charts that may not be updated or reported accurately by nurses at the nurse station.

Charging at least P800 for a 12-hour shift, a caregiver is hardly affordable for many Filipinos who struggle to work and meet the costs of hospitalization of a relative. According to anecdotes, many staff nurses resign to seek better compensation as private caregivers or call center workers.

Only young nurses seeking the hospital training required to improve their chances of landing overseas employment as nurses persevere with their hospital employment. The turnover of staff nurses is high, based on nurses’ anecdotes.

In the shortage of staff nurses, a Cebu City private hospital relies on nursing aides and nursing interns, who hardly have the training and experience to adequately meet the demands of caring for patients.

To enhance the delivery of expensive medical services to the public and concretize their claim to have patients’ welfare at heart, public and private hospital administrations should provide fair pay and humane treatment to their rank-and-file employees, the frontliners who directly relate with and affect patients and their families.


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