LOW PAY, heavy workload, no chance to go on vacation and a toxic work environment. These are among the reasons raised by nurses in private and public hospitals for the shortage of nurses in Cebu.
Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas Director Jaime Bernadas confirmed on Monday, December 16, the shortage of nurses earlier revealed by the head of a local nurses’ organization.
Bernadas said the problem is felt not only in private hospitals but also in hospitals run by local government units (LGUs) and the National Government.
Of the three, it is the National Government that pays the highest and more nurses want to work there, he said.
Since not all nurses can be hired by National Government hospitals, some opt to work abroad, in the United States or Europe in particular, where the pay is higher.
In Cebu, the National Government or DOH-retained hospitals are the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, St. Anthony Mother and Child Hospital, Eversley Childs Sanitarium and the Talisay District Hospital. National Government hospitals pay a monthly salary of P31,000 to a Nurse 1 and P35,000 to P38,000 for a Nurse 2.
Hospitals run by LGUs are the Cebu City Medical Center, Cebu Provincial Hospital in Bogo City, Cebu Provincial Hospital in Carcar City, Cebu Provincial Hospital in Danao City, Lapu-Lapu City Hospital, Mandaue City Hospital, Isidro Kintanar Memorial Hospital and the Cebu Provincial Hospital in Balamban town.
Institutions run by LGUs pay P16,000 to P18,000 for a Nurse 1 and P20,000 for a Nurse 2. These rates are about the same for private hospital nurses.
Bernadas said it was in 2018 when the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law of 2015 for nurses was completed. He still has to get a notice on the approval by the Senate of a “special provision” in the proposed 2020 national budget for a fund to grant pay increases to nurses in government institutions.
He also said the DOH monitors compliance of hospitals with staffing requirements.
But to nurses, it’s not all about the pay. SunStar Cebu asked nurses what they thought were the causes of the shortage in Cebu. One nurse who asked not to be named said that with fewer nurses, their workload has become heavy and they have longer shifts.
“In the station where I am assigned, we used to be four nurses on duty for a shift, but we are down to three and, instead of an eight-hour shift, we extend to 12 and sometimes 16 hours,” she said.
With a ratio of one nurse per 16 to 17 patients, some nurses suffer burnout, and this results in absences and resignations.
“We asked management to limit patients since we lack manpower, but our requests were never heard,” she added.
In an interview during the 4th Nursing Leaders’ Summit last Sunday, December 15, Joseph Stephen Descallar, Philippine Nurses Association Cebu chapter president, said the shortage of nurses forced some private hospitals in Cebu to shut down rooms or even entire floors and patients stay for days in emergency rooms or get treated in hospital hallways.
“It’s true that there is a lack of nurses now. Even some private hospitals in Cebu, particularly, are lacking 200 nurses. One government hospital is in need of 50 nurses. In fact, I was interviewed about the wards being closed, which is really true,” Descallar had said.
Another nurse, this time with a government hospital, told SunStar they are bombarded with work.
“We are not complaining about our workload, but it seems our job description is too much to handle in a given shift,” he said.
They not only serve patients, they also do the documentary requirements and maintain operations of the unit, from equipment to supplies and other things, he explained. To complete the task, he said, they extend from one to three hours of duty every day.
The private hospital nurse said she earns P8,000 to P12,000 a month, while the government nurse said he gets P30,000 monthly. Both said the low pay, workload and toxic environment are the reasons colleagues moved to business process outsourcing companies.
“We have a very hazardous job where there is no room for mistakes and where we are not allowed to express how we feel even if we are insulted, yet we are very underpaid and unappreciated,” the private hospital nurse said.
Social media comments on the issue also indicated low pay, burnout and no chance to go on vacation as among the reasons.
Alex Agustin shared an experience on his Facebook post when he and his companions waited six and a half hours for an emergency surgery because there was a lack of nursing staff in the operating room last Wednesday, December 11.
SunStar contacted but was not able to get the comment of private hospitals in Cebu. (With Mae Fhel K. Gom-os, USJ-R Intern)