Proposed program wants barangay health workers trained as nurses, doctors

By Candice Dominique Montenegro - GMANews.TV

Citing the continued exodus of Filipino doctors and nurses for jobs abroad, two lawmakers are proposing a program that would train barangay volunteers as health professionals.

House Bill 6536, authored by Akbayan party-list Representatives Risa Hontiveros and Walden Bello, seeks to establish the “Bibong BHW Education and Training Program” to train barangay health workers not just as midwives and physical therapists but also as doctors and nurses.

An explanatory note of the bill said tapping over 1.3 million front line workers across the nation would help address the crisis facing the Philippine health delivery system, as manifested in the closure of 200 hospitals during the past three years and partial closing of 800 more hospitals due to lack of doctors and nurses.

“That the Philippine health sector is experiencing a brain drain is no hidden fact,” said the bill, noting that between 1994 and 2003 alone around 85,000 Filipino nurses went abroad, while 3,000 doctors left the country as nurses from 2000 to 2005 and an additional 3,000 enrolled in nursing schools in 2006.

In a statement, Hontiveros also said that training local health volunteers is a better alternative to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s plan to import foreign health professionals to replace the 3,000 doctors who left in 2000-2005.

She added that the program is not only strategically in line with other health reform bills by the government but is also timely and urgent, especially with the pandemic outbreak of the A(H1N1) virus.

“Kapag nahaharap sa pandemic, mas-tumitindi ang sitwasyon dahil sa phenomenon ng labor migration ng health professionals [When faced with a pandemic, the situation becomes more grave because of the labor migration phenomenon of health professionals],” she said.

‘Step ladder’ training

As proposed, the Bibong BHW Program will follow the “step ladder” training program the University of the Philippines has initiated. 

The first step is a mandatory basic training on community health care delivery, while the second step is a more comprehensive training on community health care where they could specialize in midwifery, occupational therapy, pharmacology and so on.

The next two steps are more rigorous and specialized. The third step allows BHWs to take courses required in becoming a licensed nurse.

After finishing the 15-month program, volunteers will be eligible to take the Nursing Licensure Board Examination.

The fourth step allows BHWs to take another five-year program that includes courses on Medicine. Completion of this program will allow the volunteer to take the licensure exams for doctors.

The Bibong BHW Program bill also includes benefits for BHWs, such as full scholarships and socialized subsidies for the training, mandatory PhilHealth membership for all accredited BHWs, as well as an increase in their allowance from the current P500-P850 per month to a standard P4,500.

Teng Icoy, vice president for internal affairs of BHWs in the National Capital Region, said that the program could help volunteers like him become better at what they do. A community health worker who has been practicing reflexology for 13 years, Icoy says that the program will attract more people to become health volunteers.

“Walang age requirement para maging volunteer [there is no age requirement in becoming a volunteer],” he said. “As long as they undergo the basic course and their heart is in it, they can become barangay health workers.”

Saudi Arabia needs 1,000 female nurses in government hospitals


By Mayen Jaymalin -
More jobs overseas await Filipino nurses and other professional workers, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported recently.

POEA chief Jennifer Manalili said the Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is in urgent need of female nurses to fill some 1,000 positions in its government hospitals.

Manalili said the Ministry of Health offers benefits that include annual paid vacation, free economy round trip ticket, housing and transportation allowance, and yearly renewal of contract.

“Qualified nurses may personally submit their documents at the Manpower Registry Division, Window M at the ground floor lobby of the POEA building in Ortigas Avenue corner EDSA in Mandaluyong City,” Manalili added.

Applicants should be licensed nurses with at least one (1) year hospital experience, and should not be more than 45 years old.

Manalili said the Saudi Ministry of Finance is also looking for three communication engineers, three architects, and three electrical engineers. Applicants must be male, not more than 50 years old, with 8-10 years work experience, and have valid licenses in their fields of work.

Benefits include housing and transportation allowance equivalent to two months salary, yearly renewal of contract, and free economy round trip ticket.

Applicants for engineer and architect positions have until June 26 to submit the same documents to the POEA.

UK still needs more Filipina nurses and caregivers


By Danny Buenafe -
Despite the global crisis, Filipina nurses and caregivers are still in demand in the United Kingdom.

Even nurses who have not taken the board exams can qualify to work in a UK-based caring home.

The good part is that the British Embassy in Manila has shortened the processing of UK work and student visas. What used to be a three- to four-month processing can now be over in just four to six weeks.

Consul General Teresa de Vega and British Ambassador Designate Stephen Lillie were exclusively interviewed by the ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.

“Meron naman po demand para sa mga nurses, para sa ibang skilled professionals,” said de Vega.

“I think it’s obviously an area of opportunity. How many people will be recruited obviously has to be determined by the health service here in accordance with points-based system,” added Ambassador Designate Lillie.

The Caring Career Training (CCT) Company is one of the four legitimate recruiters of Filipina nurses and carers into the UK through a student visa. It requires a minimum two-year school training.

The nurses and carers receive a monthly modest pay, which progresses depending on their performance at the assigned caring home.

Almost 200 nurses had already been recruited by CCT, and they appear to be happy with the training facilities and accommodation.

“May mga paperworks talaga. May mga workbooks, mga sasagutan,,, related naman sa work,” commented Joanne Timbol.

“Naghahanap din sila ng mga work plans namin pero hindi naman kami pinapabayaan,” said Sheila Gonzaga.

But CCT clarified that there is an initial corresponding free of 3,500 pounds (P300,000) to cover training, food and accommodation expenses including the visa.

This does not yet cover the plane fare which the applicant has to pay.

Jay Mariano, CCT overseas director, said, “In the Philippines, we do not receive the money. What happens is that they do the transactions straight to the UK. Para po may receipt sila .”

Based on statistics, there is an annual increase of 10 percent in the manpower requirements of UK caring homes. Unlike in the Philippines, the population of adults is much higher in the UK.

Apart from nurses, the Philippine Embassy said there is also a demand for plumbers and electricians.

More than 100 nursing schools open despite government ban

By Andrew Jonathan Bagaoisan And Mark Angelo Ching Vera Files 

First of two parts 

Nursing schools all over the country will be opening their doors this week to thousands of students with the great white cap dream—getting a nursing degree, working in a hospital abroad, and earning a comfortable living. 

But not all these schools are qualified to offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. In fact, some of them were supposed to have been shut down years ago for failing to meet the requirements of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), while some new ones were not supposed to have opened at all. 

The fact is, many students are spending their parents’ hard-earned money on substandard nursing education because the commission has been unable to weed out the poorly performing nursing schools. 

In 2004, the commission declared a moratorium on the opening of more nursing schools after professional nurses complained that nursing schools were sprouting like mushrooms, even as more students were failing the nursing licensure exams. The problem reached tipping point in 2006 when news of a leakage in the exams made headlines. 

But political and business pressures exerted on the commission have been preventing it from effectively regulating nursing schools and closing down those that perform badly. 

Commission records show that from 2004 to 2007, more than 120 schools began offering nursing courses compared to only 98 new schools in the same time span before the moratorium. A total of 459 nursing schools operate in the country today. 

The agency’s officials revealed that the Commission even allowed more schools to open by continually processing pending applications. As recent as August 2008, the agency exempted certain schools from the moratorium through a verbal agreement among the commissioners. The Commission did not make this agreement public. Even now, a number of schools are reportedly applying to open, one of them with up to 17 new campuses.