The Philippines is considering allowing more nurses and other medical professionals to leave for jobs abroad after banning them from travel so they can fight coronavirus at home, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said on Thursday.
Thousands of the nurses, who call themselves “priso-nurses” have appealed to the government to be allowed to travel, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The nurses say they feel underpaid, underappreciated and unprotected at home.
Health care workers from the Philippines are on the front lines of the pandemic at hospitals in the United States, Europe and the Middle East as well as back home.
The labour minister has proposed to expand exemptions to those who had contracts abroad as of Aug. 31. So far it is only those with contracts as of March 8 who have been allowed to travel.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told a media briefing that a proposal for a relaxation would be made on Monday to President Duterte, who will have the final say.
Foreign Affairs Minister Teodoro Locsin, who has called for the lifting of the ban, said in a tweet the Philippines has 400,000 nursing graduates without jobs so “they’re rightly pissed.”
In Germany there are 430 doctors and nurses per 10,000 people. In the Philippines, there are 65.
The Philippines has the highest number of recorded coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia with 276,289. Its 4,785 deaths are second only to Indonesia.
Labour Minister Silvestre Bello told nurses on Sept. 11 he was confident the president would support his proposal to relax the travel ban. He said the total lifting of the ban was “under serious study”.
“While we don’t want our nurses to leave, they are at a disadvantage. They don’t have jobs here and even if they did, the salary is low,” Bello said as he urged nurses to fight for their rights.