MANILA — Reacting to an offer by the government to deploy local nurses to the United Kingdom and Germany in exchange for donations of the much-needed Covid-19 vaccine, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) with multiple members working in healthcare across the country hit the Duterte administration for treating medical front-liners as a bargaining chip.
In a statement, the organization’s secretary-general Jocelyn Andamo expressed disgust over how “nurses and healthcare workers are being treated by the government as commodities or export products.”
The Philippines wants to secure over 148 million doses of vaccines altogether in order to immunize the largest number of individuals and thus achieve ‘herd immunity’.
The United Kingdom’s embassy in Manila, however, did not immediately respond to a request for comment while calls to Germany’s mission went unanswered.
As a means of addressing unemployment and difficulties in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, the government, through the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), has opted to let thousands of healthcare workers, mostly nurses, take up employment in the United Kingdom and Germany with an agreement that both countries would donate the much-needed vaccines.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment, the country has decided to lift up the cap in exchange for vaccines from the two European countries, which would be used to inoculate outbound workers and also the hundreds of thousands of Pinoy expatriates in several countries around the world.
But DoLE international affairs bureau director Alice Visperas clarified that although the Philippines, which has among Asia’s highest number of coronavirus cases, has relaxed the erstwhile ban on deploying its healthcare workers overseas, there will still be limits with regards to the number of medical professionals who will leave the country to work abroad.
The limit has been pegged at 5,000 healthcare workers per year, Visperas added.
Senator Franklin Drilon also hit DoLE’s recent offer of healthcare manpower-for-COVID-vaccines deal with UK and Germany and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello has since withdrawn his office’s initiative reports from the senate said.
Nurses are among the millions of Filipinos who work overseas, providing in excess of US$30 billion a year in remittances vital to the government’s efforts for recovery from the economic slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic that triggered lockdowns and the imposition of health safety restrictions.
“We are considering the request to lift the deployment cap, subject to agreement,” Visperas disclosed.
As of present, the United Kingdom is grappling with the world’s sixth-highest coronavirus death toll and one of the worst economic hits from the global health crisis, while Germany has the tenth most number of infections worldwide.
While the two countries have inoculated a combined 23 million people, the Philippines have yet to start its campaign to immunize some 70 million adults or two-thirds of the country’s 108 million population. The Duterte administration expects to receive its first batch of vaccines this week, donated by China.
In 2019, almost 17,000 Filipino nurses signed overseas work contracts, Government data showed. While Filipino nurses have fought to lift the deployment ban to escape poor working conditions and low pay at home, the workers-for-vaccine plan has not gone down well with some medical workers. (BG/Headline PH)