Exodus of health workers paves way for bilateral pacts

Seeing no end to the outmigration of Filipino nurses and doctors, a former health secretary has taken steps to “tame the exodus” and achieve a win-win situation for both the Philippines and foreign countries employing our medical professionals.

For a number of years now, Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan, former Department of Health (DoH) Secretary, has been working for partnerships among countries recruiting Filipino nurses and doctors.

Tan, who initiated an extensive study on the exodus of medical professionals and its effects in the Philippine healthcare system, has formulated ways to improve the situation by seeking bilateral agreements with receiving countries such as Canada, Finland and Australia, among others.

“I have accepted globalization and I have accepted that Filipino nurses are bound to go. Let us tame the exodus; you cannot stop them; that is their human right. Let us tame it,” said Tan, an educator at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine and founder of Health Futures Foundation, Inc., which trains community health workers nationwide.

Though lacking official government backing, Tan was able to secure on-going negotiations from recruiting countries such as Finland, Canada, Australia and Bahrain to establish a trust fund for health human resources development.

“We can turn migration into a positive force rather than a negative force.”

The proposed RP-Partner trust foundation seeks the adoption of a Philippine region such as Iloilo, Surigao, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur with the recruiter pouring direct investments in its health system.

Tan is also negotiating for employed nurses to return to the Philippines after two years of service abroad to share their knowledge among Filipino nurses for a period of six months. “I call this brain circulation,” he said.

For nurses who may opt to stay and teach in the Philippines, Tan has asked recruiting countries to provide a Masters Degree scholarship to be provided by the state or the hospital where the nurse is employed.

Other negotiations in the “win-win” bilateral agreement include the provision of three nursing scholarships in a Philippine nursing school partner for every Filipino nurse recruited by the state or the hospital and the improvement of a healthcare facility for every 10 nurses recruited.

For 20 nurses recruited, a nursing school should be improved and for 50 recruited Filipino nurses, Tan seeks for the improvement of a training hospital.

Tan’s research shows the Philippines remains the top exporter of nurses to the world and the number two exporter of doctors, following India.

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