‘THE DOCTOR IS OUT’
More physicians want to
work as nurses abroad
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
More than 4,000 doctors are bound to leave the country in search for greener pastures abroad, a dilemma which will result in utter degradation of the public health system.
Concerned with the continuing exodus of their colleagues to foreign countries to work as nurses, government doctors in the region banded together to address “the public health hemorrhage.”
Dr. Lydia Depra-Ramos, regional director of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) and founding president of the Philippine Association of Government Physicians, Inc. (Pagpi), expressed alarm over the growing number of public doctors leaving the country to earn more as nurses in Western nations.
Pagpi, which was conceived in September 2004, aims to “guarantee opportunities to government physicians for professional and personal growth, development and advancement and also to maximize their potentials and give recognition to their services.”
Government doctors include physicians working at rural health units and local government and DOH hospitals.
From November 18-19, 2005, Pagpi will hold its first annual national convention to discuss possible solutions to the continuing mass departure of Filipino doctors abroad
Ramos fear the migration of doctors to US and other foreign nations will result to less nurtured Filipinos.
“Before, the idea of a doctor becoming a nurse was unthinkable. But because of the present situation where doctors are not well paid with lots of works and responsibilities and so many social expectations, they are tempted to leave the country for better-paying jobs,” Ramos said.
Ramos added “we should start nurturing our doctors or else the Philippine health system will suffer. That is the purpose of Pagpi.”
“Pagpi will give a face, a voice and a group to government doctors so they will feel assured that whatever problems they encounter will be addressed,” Ramos said.
Lack of opportunity
Behind these alarming number of doctors mass migrating for better pastures abroad (see related front page story), Ramos said the real reasons are “low pay, lack of opportunity for personal and professional advancement, demoralization over poor hospital facilities and lack of support from the government for proposed solutions.”
“Dissatisfaction is spreading among government doctors. Despite the years they spent to prepare for their profession and their workload, their pay is lower compared to a Supreme Court clerk. A clerk receives P20,000 monthly while our doctors only get P15,000 a month,” Ramos said.
Ramos proposed to exclude government health workers from the salary standardization policy of the government just like the judiciary to address the concern of low wages among heath workers.
“Just imagine drivers and clerks of the judiciary earning more than our doctors and nurses. This is really lopsided appreciation of physicians in government. Our efforts might be late, but it’s better than doing nothing,” she said.
Aside from an independent salary scheme, Pagpi will also lobby with the government to allow government doctors to engage in private practice.
“As we try to increase the salaries and benefits of our health workers, they can earn extra income by moonlighting as medical specialists,” Ramos said.
Pagpi will also try to inject fresh blood into the public health system by attracting more students to enter medical schools by way of scholarships.
“But we will require our scholars to work for two years for every year of scholarship they enjoyed. Even if more doctors come out, we will ensure that much more will come in,” Ramos said.
Another way of enticing more medical students is to relax requirements for residency programs of hospitals and attractive compensation package upon employment.
The DOH also urged local government units to allow and help public doctors and nurses to go on trainings and seminars “to hone their skills.”
“In most towns and cities, the doctors and nurses are all work because some mayors complain that no one is left to attend to patients at hospitals when they go on training. But the medical profession is an ongoing training given its scientific background. That is the problem with devolution of health services. The politicians speak a language different from that of medical professionals,” Ramos said.
The DOH regional chief further said: “The lack of state of the art equipment in hospitals also demoralizes physicians as they feel inadequate in practicing their expertise. But if you have these modern gadgets to help our doctors, they will be inspired to serve.”
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque, Cong. Francis Escudero and former health secretary Jaime Galvez Tan are among the speakers of the two-day event which will be held Amigo Terrace Hotel.
The theme for the first Pagpi annual convention is “Nurturing Government Physician Practice in the Philippines. (Published in The Guardian, November 16, 2005)