Philippines lifts travel ban on medical workers

The Philippine government has finally allowed the deployment of healthcare workers outside the country.

Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello was quoted as saying in a report by Reuters that President Rodrigo Duterte “already approved the lifting of the temporary suspension of deployment of nurses and other medical workers.”

However, he said that only 5,000 workers are allowed to leave yearly.

“We are starting only with a cap of 5,000 so we will not run out [of medical workers], but this may increase eventually,” Bello said.

Duterte’s approval came after the continued slowdown of the country’s coronavirus spread coupled with improved conditions, thereby allowing its healthcare workers to leave.

The Philippines so far has the second-highest number of virus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia but daily cases have since dropped.

Last year, nearly 17,000 nurses signed job contracts overseas, based on data from the Commission on Higher Education and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

In April, the government banned medical workers such as nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers from leaving the country, with the government expecting them to help combat the virus crisis in the Philippines.

However, thousands of healthcare workers appealed to the government, because they felt underpaid, under-appreciated, and unprotected in the Philippines. They dubbed themselves as “priso-nurse.”

Commenting on the lifting, Filipino Nurses United President Maristela Abenojar said that the organization welcomed the government’s move, but said that the government must make good on its promise to give its nurses better pay and benefits if it wants them to stay.

Filipino health workers are on the front lines of the pandemic at hospitals in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, as well as at home. In the Philippines, medical workers called for a “time out” as hospital beds were running out due to the rising number of cases back then.

New coronavirus cases in the Philippines have remained below 2,000 since November 10, while deaths. As of November 20, the total number of cases was at 8,025, or equivalent to 1.93 percent of the country’s 415,067 cases.

Photo from Flickr