The Aquino administration boasts that the RN Heals program is one of its achievements. But NARS ng Bayan, a national association of community health nurses and people’s health advocates, has a contrary view. In fact, NARS sees RN Heals essentially as a form of exploitation.
RN Heals hires licensed qualified nurses for one year—as “contractuals.” The nurses are made to perform regular nursing tasks and augment the nursing manpower in many understaffed hospitals; yet, they are considered “trainees” with an allowance of not more than P8,000 a month. Meager as it is, the release of the allowance in many cases is even delayed for 2-3 months. Meantime, trainees spend for their daily needs (meals and transportation) and other incidental expenses like scrub suits, gloves or even medicines for job-related health problems like allergy, etc.
A more serious concern: RN Heals nurses have little or no protection at all from possible work-related liabilities or accountabilities that may arise from the performance of their duties.
The country has a huge pool of nurses. But severe unemployment remains the core problem in the nursing front. Ironically, nursing service is gravely needed in underserved and poor communities, and in public hospitals that are generally ill-equipped and seriously understaffed. Indeed, there is scarcity amidst plenty.
The government has neither observed nor implemented the standards that itself has set especially the nurse-patient ratio of 1:12 for bedside nursing care, and 1:20,000 for public health. In many government hospitals, a nurse usually handles more than 20 patients—often even more, like in the National Mental Health Center where a ward nurse is made to take charge of an average of 80-100 psychiatric patients. Moreover, public health nurses should have been receiving a starting monthly salary of P24,887, as per the Philippine Nursing Law of 2002, but the government has not allotted any budget for the enforcement of this law.
The “daang matuwid” of P-Noy has not addressed the problem of nurse unemployment (despite the country’s critical need for nurses), which is worsening because its approach, like the RN Heals program, is temporary and superficial.
RN Heals neither “heals” nor dignifies nurses because it is a form of exploitation. The public health system can be made stronger by creating plantilla positions for more nurses to meet the growing needs of the population. Health is a major responsibility of the state, so the government should allot adequate budget for health services and human resource.
NARS sees nursing as a service profession and not merely a job; it is a moral duty and commitment to care for the well and the sick. We can truly live up to our commitment only with the government’s full support.
We agree with the “People’s Sona” which was delivered outside the halls of Congress. If we are truly “the boss” of P-Noy, the policies and budget should be allotted with the end in view of benefiting the people.
—MARISTELA P. ABENOJAR, RN, MAN, president, Nagkakaisang Narses
sa Adhikaing Reporma
sa Kalusugan ng Sambayanan