Enough of government’s insensitive, inefficient management of the COVID-19 crisis
The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) strongly calls on the government to allot a bigger COVID-19 response budget for 2022 to ramp up free health services, especially free mass testing, to effectively contain and rein in the spread of the virus. Unless the government seriously fulfills its primary obligation to undertake basic public infection control measures, COVID-19 will continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives, including and most especially on nurses and other health care workers (HCWs) at the forefront of the pandemic response.
Moreover, as we project COVID-19 to still be a major health problem for at least a year more, FNU reiterates its call for the mass hiring of nurses to prop up our health system, or roughly an additional 50,000 nurses who should be given a just living wage and decent benefits like hazard pay. This should also include subsidies for private sector nurses employed in small to medium enterprises, for their salary increase and paid leaves regardless of employment status. The contractual government nurses numbering to at least half of 63, 820 government-employed nurses, or roughly 30,000, should be regularized as they perform the duties of regular staff and are equally exposed to the same life-threatening risks. They should be absorbed so that vacant plantilla positions can be filled up immediately. These measures can serve as incentives for currently employed nurses to stay on despite the huge risks and extreme fatigue in the workplace.
With the increasing cases of COVID-19 infection and deaths among nurses, doctors, and HCWs, they stand as victims themselves of the government’s inefficient, mismanaged COVID-19 response. We have been calling for a more adequate and scientific COVID-19 response implemented with caring, efficient, and effective leadership, and that ensures more substantial and relevant funding for the needs of the health sector.
The Department of Health requires our hospitals to allot 30 percent of beds to COVID-19 patients, yet, there are no additional health staff to manage these beds. Nurses on average handle 12-15 moderate to severe COVID-19 patients in COVID-19 wards, because intensive care units (ICUs) are already full. In the ICU, one nurse handles more than two severely infected patients. Ideally, one nurse should handle only three to six COVID-19 patients in COVID-19 wards, and one nurse to one critically ill COVID-19 patient in ICUs.
Up to now, many nurses and other HCWs from public and private sectors are still waiting to receive the Bayanihan 2 benefits promised them, such as allowances and compensation for those who contracted the virus. Private sector nurses are in dire need of the hazard pay and medical assistance they were likewise promised.
COVID-19 benefits, including mandatory free testing for all HCWs and guaranteed PPE and free medical assistance, are stipulated in Bayanihan 2. Yet many HCWs, in private and public settings, have yet to receive these even after President Duterte’s 10-day ultimatum has long lapsed. As for the vaccination program, the government is high on promise but short on actual implementation, with many more Filipinos especially in the provinces still waiting to be vaccinated.
The FNU urgently calls for caring, efficient, and effective leadership against this pandemic. Enough of the insensitive, inefficient management that has defined the last 18 months of this crisis. We demand that the health needs of the Filipino people and an effective COVID-19 response be the top priorities in the 2022 budget. This means allocating sufficient funds to ensure immediate and free basic health services and timely assistance to the people and ample support for our health frontliners, to avoid the further unnecessary loss of lives and, just as worse, the collapse of the country’s health care system.
FILIPINO NURSES UNITED
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