AFTER a nurses’ organization confirmed the lack of nurses in Cebu, the next step is to influence authorities to take action to address this scarcity.
Lobby government officials to implement the law pegging a higher salary grade for nurses in public hospitals and push legislators to draft new laws to target the causes of the shortage.
Nurses’ organizations in the country have been pushing government to implement Republic Act 9173 or Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 that would raise the starting pay of nurses to P30,000.
The Supreme Court ruled last October that government nurses are entitled by law to a minimum monthly salary of up to P30,530. In ruling on a petition of the Ang Nars party-list, the Supreme Court said government nurses’ minimum pay should be pegged at Salary Grade 15 that ranges from P19,845 to P30,531, depending on the town or city class. That would place them in the same grade as fire personnel and lowest-level Police Officer 1.
In an interview during the 4th Nursing Leaders’ Summit on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, Joseph Stephen Descallar, Philippine Nurses Association Cebu chapter president, said nurses are assigned to more patients and are forced to work for longer periods. The ideal nurse-to-patient ratio for a ward is 1:10 to 12 patients, but a nurse at times is forced to care for 30 to 50 patients or an entire ward and work 12 to 16 hours.
He said private hospital nurses earn P10,000 to P12,000 a month while nurses in government hospitals get more at P18,000 to P20,000. The starting pay for government nurses will go up once government implements a Salary Grade 15 for them.
Some private hospitals in Cebu, he said, are forced to shut down rooms or even entire floors for lack of nurses and patients stay for days in emergency rooms or are treated in hospital hallways.
The immediate solution to the nurses’ shortage is to implement the pay increase stated by law and confirmed by the Supreme Court. The Senate approved last month the proposed P4.1 trillion 2020 budget with a “special provision” for a fund to grant pay increases to nurses in government institutions.
The nurses’ organizations, backed by others in the medical field and the public, should lobby Congress to approve the budget with the fund for the pay increase included. The Senate and House of Representatives are set to approve the bicameral conference committee report on the budget this week. Once the bicameral report is approved, these organizations should lobby President Rodrigo Duterte to sign and not veto the proposed budget.
A moratorium on the sending of nurses abroad, a measure to correct the effects of the K to 12 program on nursing students and imposing rules on private hospitals may be taken up later through legislation.
What is important is to pressure the government to recognize the problem and act on solutions now.