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Nation’s survival

Local nurses themselves are calling for the same, citing their right not to be deprived of opportunities to earn more abroad.

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The German government is practically begging the Philippines to lift its deployment cap on health care workers to fill up its demand gap for 50,000 medical personnel seen to rise to 400,000 in the years to come.

German Ambassador to Manila Anke Reiffenstuel said in a television interview that she is in talks with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and that he’s “very open and very much listening.”

The German official made the case for lifting the ban by citing the big number of Filipino health workers already contracted by her country before the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases put a 5,000 cap on the deployment.

She pointed out that Germany offers decent salary, bonuses, retirement and other benefits and that it has strong labor laws that ensure the rights of foreign workers are protected.

In what may be seen by others as a patronizing tone, but should be considered as an honest assessment of the quality of our health care workers, German recruiter Mathias Hallerbach said the “educational system (for medical professionals in the Philippines) is excellent with a four-year bachelor degree.”

“The gap between the German and Philippine degrees is really low so adjustments are rather easy for the nurses,” Hallerbach said.

“Then also the culture is very similar. If you’ve lived in the Philippines, if you’ve worked in a hospital in the Philippines, you’ll be more than welcome to work in a hospital or nursing home in Germany. You will be having an easy time to adjust,” he added.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration under Bello has frozen any further deployment from the sector because the 5,000 cap set by government has already been reached. While Bello can be expected to lend an ear to Reiffenstuel, lifting the cap is a decision that rises above the authority of the Labor secretary.

Likewise, it may be beyond Bello to approve a proposal to increase the cap by 1,500 to 6,500 — an increase that the German ambassador said would not even suffice.

Aside from countries like Germany moving for the lifting of the cap, local nurses themselves are calling for the same, citing their right not to be deprived of opportunities to earn more abroad.

The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) has been making a lot of noises, saying it “finds it outrageous that the government, while failing or unwilling to provide just wages and decent incentives to nurses at this time of a health and economic crisis, would even deprive them of their right to seek better opportunities overseas.”

FNU said the deployment ban is an “unjust and irrational policy that will not address the current problem of acute nurse understaffing especially in this time of the pandemic.”

The group pointed out the appeal to the nurses’ sense of patriotism would be unfair because many of them have already served in the country’s “no-work, no-pay employment scheme.”

“These nurses should not be barred from their aspirations for a better life that our government cannot provide,” FNU said, as it pointed out the social and economic difficulties being faced by their members.

An inherent power of the state, not just our own but in all other countries across the globe, is the authority to impose measures on the governed to ensure the survival of the nation.

And that’s at the very core of the discussion here. In as much as Germany can promise the moon and the stars to ensure the survival of its people, the Philippines will have to take care first of its own people’s needs. Health care during normal times impacts the survival of nations, much more so during a pandemic whose end cannot yet be seen.

Those health care workers who argue behind the big salaries they would get abroad to give their families a better life should well remember that to enjoy life one has to be alive.

What’s the point of our health care workers earning a lot of money overseas if with their leaving they’d create a medical vacuum in our country, resulting in gross understaffing of local hospitals and thousands upon thousands of Filipinos dying?

The deployment cap is just temporary and bigger salaries can wait after the pandemic. We, Filipinos, must ensure first our survival just like what all the other countries are doing when the rich ones started hoarding the Covid-19 vaccines.

Just the same, the Department of Health and all other concerned agencies should roll out better pay and benefits for our health care workers who are risking their lives helping a nation survive this scourge.

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