Ang Nars appeals to Duterte to remove health workers deployment ban

Nurse advocacy group Ang Nars Partly-list is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to intervene for the lifting of overseas deployment ban of health workers in the country.

In an on open letter posted online, Ang Nars representative and founding president Leah Paquiz said that health workers were ‘singled out’ by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in imposing the ban on health workers while all the other migrant workers are already allowed to go abroad.

Paquiz said that health workers are subjected to “systematic oppression through low salary, false volunteerism, lack of benefits, contractualization, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic: discrimination and violence.”

“We had no choice but to seek foreign employment if we want provide a decent life for our families. But now even that choice is taken away from us,” Paquiz said.

The nurses’ group said that if the government wants to keep health workers in the country, then “they must offer internationally competitive salaries, benefits, and protection so we will CHOOSE to stay, instead of being forced to.”

Here’s the full text of the letter of Ang Nars to Duterte:

LETTER TO PRESIDENT DUTERTE
Subject: Appeal to Remove the Health Workers Deployment Ban

Dear Tatay Digong:

We, the Filipino health workers, implore your humble representation to intervene for the removal of the POEA health workers deployment ban.

We unanimously call for the removal of the POEA health worker deployment ban. And write to your good office, as our concern sent to DOLE on April 11 against the temporary ban on deployment of migrant health workers worsens when POEA singled us out and imposed a deployment ban on us, while all other deployment were allowed.

Tatay Digong, for decades, health workers have been subject to systematic oppression through low salary, false volunteerism, lack of benefits, contractualization, and now during the COVID-19 pandemic: discrimination and violence. We are all college graduates and license holders, yet many of us are still contractuals and job orders who receive below minimum wage and no security of tenure.

We had no choice but to seek foreign employment if we want provide a decent life for our families. But now even that choice is taken away from us. Although temporary, this ban on the deployment of migrant healthcare workers has obstructed thousands of life-changing opportunities that may be lost forever. Becoming an OFW takes years of planning and sacrifice, including spending a fortune just for a chance for a better future.

You said in a press conference that your “only argument” was to prevent health workers to go abroad and come back in a coffin. Yet statistics show that health workers in other countries are five times less likely to be infected with COVID-19 due to their better working conditions.

Health workers aiming to be OFWs have long been dissatisfied and disenfranchised from our health system. Many among us would rather stay at home or find other means of employment instead of working where there is a severe lack of PPE coupled with low salary.

We have been treated as disposable products for the longest time, and now we don’t even have a way out from that circumstance. This is why ANG NARS continues to fight for the implementation of Salary Grade 15 for nurses in government and its equivalent in private and LGU hospitals in order to promote sustainable development in our health care delivery sector with functional health human resource component. And while ANG NARS won its case in the Supreme Court, the funded SG 15 in the 2020 GAA is yet to be released subject to the issuance of finality of judgment by the Supreme Court.

There are many among us who did not receive government assistance for our education. Yet we are still banned from going abroad even though we are neither public servants nor military. Are we expected to go through forced servitude at the cost of our family’s livelihood?

If the government wants to keep our health workers within the country, then the Philippines must offer internationally competitive salaries, benefits, and protection so we will CHOOSE to stay, instead of being forced to.

Tatay Digong, naniniwala kami na kaisa namin kayo na Nangangalaga ng Tagapag-alaga ng May Sakit.

At alam namin na kaagapay namin kayo sa paghahananap ng Tamang Trabaho, Tamang Sweldo, TAMANG SOLUSYON para sa mga tagapagalaga ng may sakit.

(SGD)
LEAH PRIMITIVA G. SAMACO-PAQUIZ, DEd. LPT, RN
Representative, ANG NARS Party-list, 16th Congress of the Philippines
Founding President, ANG NARS Inc.

POEA issued Resolution 09 temporarily suspending the deployment of all health care workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted.”

But after receiving public uproar, the Inter-Agency Taskforce (IATF) reviewed the temporary deployment ban and eventually allowed health care workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to work abroad.

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