The news about 3,714 Filipino nursing graduates who have sought employment in the United States in the first three months of 2022 is not good news. It is a bad story to tell.

What if all of them would be able to work in the US? What would happen to the health care system in the Philippines if there’s a shortage of nurses? At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Philippine hospitals, both private and public, had difficulty in taking care of patients because of manpower constraints. The government would have a hard time managing future public health crises if medical professionals (that include physicians) keep on leaving the country for greener pastures abroad.

This year’s first quarter data show that the number of nursing graduates who have taken the US National Council Licensure Examination for the first time is up 147 percent from 1,501 Filipino nursing graduates who took the same exam in the same period last year. This could signify that these fresh graduates do not want to work here at all.

Filipino Nurses United (FNU) has offered solutions to the government to put a stop to the exodus of nurses: increase the entry salary of both public and private nurses to P50,000; and hire more healthcare workers and turn contractual nurses (including nurses who are on a job-order work basis, contract of service and under the government’s Nurse Deployment Program) into regular employees.

In Metro Manila alone, FNU said over 100,000 nurses in the private sector earn P537 every day in the National Capital Region and the pay is much lower outside Metro Manila.

The group further said government nurses are paid higher but they suffer from work overload due to the high number of patients they have to take care of. Also, FNU said several government-employed nurses can be terminated anytime as they do not have regular positions and benefits.

Nurses, including doctors and other medical professionals, are considered heroes amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It is high time for the government to listen to their cries. Stopping them from working abroad will not solve their problems, and it will spawn more problems.