NEWLY appointed Health Secretary Dr. Ted Herbosa has vowed to find ways to encourage the country's nurses to stay instead of leaving for higher-paying opportunities abroad.

In a television interview, Herbosa raised the need for a better salary for Filipino nurses to encourage them to not leave.

"We need to pay them correctly and our nurses are the best in the world. How do I know that?... They're being asked by Presidents of other countries. They should be serving the Filipino people," he said.

"The right for better life is embodied in our Constitution. If a nurse wants to go abroad to get a salary that I cannot give, I shouldn't stop that person because what I should look at is why I'm not able to pay the same amount so that they can be here in their own country, in their own family, enjoy the beautiful islands of the Philippines. So I will search for the solution of what will make them stay," Herbosa added.

As of December 2022, based on data from the Filipino Nurses United (FNU), the average monthly salary for nurses in private hospitals is P12,000, while those working in government hospitals earn an average of P35,097.

The group mulls for a P50,000 entry rate for all nurses.

Herbosa said the DOH will also review the benefits of nurses.

In a bid to address the lack of nurses in the country, Herbosa said he is considering the possibility of allowing unlicensed nursing graduates, who have yet to pass the board exam, to work in public hospitals.

He said there were around 4,500 vacant nursing positions in the government.

“We have several nurses that don’t pass the board examination and who don’t have a license. In government, you cannot work without a license, but I am willing to take them if they have a diploma,” Herbosa said.

“I’ll make it eligible. If you have a diploma in an accredited school, recognized, I give you a period of time to pass it... You make them work for five years, I’m giving you five years to pass the board exam,” he added.

Herbosa also expressed willingness to invest in mentoring programs to help graduates in passing the board exam within the designated period, enabling them to receive a full salary and the benefits entitled to licensed nurses.

He said he will tap the Professional Regulatory Commission about the matter.

Delayed payment

On Wednesday, June 7, Herbosa said he will prioritize addressing the delays in the payment of special risk allowance of the healthcare workers who provided service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DOH said as of February, 805,000 healthcare workers both from the public and private hospitals have yet to get their complete pay for the services they rendered during the pandemic.

It said the P72 billion allocated by the National Government for the said purpose is still not enough to cover the unpaid allowances since 2021.

Herbosa also said that among the marching orders to him by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is to address the increasing cases of tuberculosis, teenage pregnancy and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among the youth.

“Sinabi niya rin ‘yung specialty hospitals. Very important, sabi niya, tulungan ‘yung mga mahihirap at walang access. Gagawin ho natin lahat ‘yun and hopefully, we can be able to provide to the Filipino people ‘yung healthcare na gusto ni President Marcos,” he added.

(He also mentioned specialty hospitals. It is very important, he said, to assist the poor and those without access. We will do all of that, and hopefully, we can provide the healthcare that President Marcos desires to the Filipino people.)

Herbosa took his oath of office administered by Marcos on Tuesday, June 6.

He appointed former DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire as the chief of undersecretaries.

"DOH Undersecretary Enrique Tayag was appointed as the head of the field implementation and coordination team in Northern and Central Luzon, Undersecretary Nestor Santiago Jr. in NCR and Southern Luzon, Undersecretary Camilo Cascolan in the Visayas, and Undersecretary Abdullah Dumama Jr. in Mindanao. (SunStar Philippines)