IATF to tackle health worker deployment ban today

14-Apr-2020 Intellasia | PhilStar | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Government agencies may discuss today the ban on the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad, a policy that has drawn flak for supposedly promoting “involuntary servitude.”

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said there was a request for members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases to look into the issues surrounding the deployment ban.

“Actually, even before (the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) and (the Department of Labour and Employment) came up with these guidelines, the discussion involved (multiple) stakeholders, but again, there is a request for this to be reviewed by the IATF so… we will discuss this during the IATF meeting. We will report to the public whatever comes out of the discussions,” Nograles said at a press briefing yesterday.

He added that the meeting would allow IATF member-agencies to express their positions about the deployment ban and that the IATF “would issue guidelines on this as soon as possible.”

The POEA had earlier suspended the deployment of healthcare workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until the COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted in the destination countries.”

The deployment ban, according to the POEA, seeks “to support the national objective of controling the spread of COVID-19 through the regulation in the deployment of Filipino healthcare workers through mission-critical skills framework and to prioritise human resource allocation for the national healthcare system at the time of the national state of emergency.”

The ban covers medical doctors or physicians, nurses, microbiologists, molecular biologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, X-ray/radiologic technicians, nursing assistants or nursing aids, operators of medical equipment, supervisors of health services and personal care, and repairmen of medical-hospital equipment.

Some health workers are opposed to the ban, saying it prevents them from securing opportunities in other countries.

Lockdown extension denied

Nograles also dismissed as “fake news” social media posts claiming that the lockdown in Luzon would be extended past April 30.

The island has been under enhanced community quarantine since March 17.

The quarantine was supposed to end on April 13, but President Duterte extended it until April 30 to give the government more time to study the virus that causes COVID-19.

“That’s fake news. To the one spreading it, we are not discussing the extension of lockdown after April 30. It’s not true that the IATF has decided to extend it,” Nograles said. “What happens after April 30? All of these are being studied carefully in all our IATF meetings.”

‘Wrong, unauthorised’

The ban on the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad is “wrong” and “unauthorised by the IATF resolution, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday.

“Mali at (It’s wrong and) unauthorised by IATF resolution upholding the right to travel and deploy oneself according to existing work contracts,” Locsin said on Twitter, hitting the POEA governing board resolution.

“Right. They just want to feel patriotic. At the nurses expense. Why don’t they take up nursing. Because they’d flunk,” he added, reacting to a tweet whether the government will hire all Filipino nurses temporarily banned from going back to their contracts abroad and the income they are losing abroad.

“Hike nurses’ pay SO they will stay. Never say MAKE THEM STAY. No one can make the innocent do anything. Anyone who says you can make the innocent do something they don’t want should be shot with shet in the face,” he said.

‘Provide attractive packages’

Instead of banning the deployment of Filipino health workers abroad, the government should provide them “attractive packages” that would prevent them from working overseas amid the country’s continued fight against COVID-19, vice President Leni Robredo said yesterday.

“(The deployment ban) may not be required, but incentives must be provided (to our health workers),” Robredo said in her weekly programme over radio station dzXL.

The vice President cited the incentives provided by countries like the United States, particularly New York City, to lure health workers to work in their hospitals.

“In New York City, which is considered as ground zero (of COVID-19 in the US), they don’t require health workers from other states to transfer to them, but they give attractive packages (including) free transportation, free accommodation, and they raised their salaries. This could be used as an approach to make our health workers stay,” she said.

Robredo noted that many of the health workers they know claimed that the government’s decision to issue a deployment ban was “unfair.”

If Filipino medical workers would have the same opportunities here, the vice President said they would surely not leave their families.

“Why are they going abroad? Because of the lack of opportunities here, their salary is too low. If they only have the choice, of course they won’t leave their families, but out of necessity, they leave,” she said.

The Filipino health workers are among the best in the world, according to Robredo.

“If you watched the UK media personality who praised our Filipino nurses, they praised them for being among those in the frontlines in this fight against COVID-19, I’m sure it’s the same in the US,” she said, referring to Piers Morgan, who did so in his television programme “Good Morning Britain.”

Robredo expressed hope that the COVID-19 crisis would change the working condition of health workers in the country.

“I hope this would be the turning point on how we treat our health workers. Our nurses continue to receive low salaries,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joel Villanueva yesterday asked the government to reconsider its move to ban the deployment of nurses abroad.

While he believes that under the circumstances, the state can suspend deployment of medical personnel and the right to travel is not absolute, Villanueva said the government should also carefully study the impact of the ban on those with existing contracts, and those who have only temporarily gone home for their annual vacation.

“If our government presses forward with the sweeping ban on the exit of Filipino healthcare workers, even if they have live contracts, our labour department, in coordination with the Department of Health, should be prepared to take them into our healthcare system at the very least,” Villanueva said.

“Our labour department must track them and make plans for their integration into our healthcare system while the state of emergency prevails, and ensure they are compensated in a commensurate manner,” he said.

The senator also appealed to the DFA to provide assistance to the overseas healthcare workers to contact their respective employers abroad to sort out the issue and ensure that they will still have jobs to return to once the deployment ban is lifted.

“If there is no pro-active and parallel effort to track them down and encourage them to work in our healthcare system, the government should rethink its policy, and instead allow the exit of those healthcare workers with existing contracts, and the ban should only cover new contracts,” he said.



Category: Philippines

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