Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan) has renewed his call for the scrapping of the 7,000 annual cap on overseas deployable healthcare workers, insisting that the quota’s continued enforcement violates the Constitution.
“We maintain that Filipinos enjoy the right to live and work wherever they can achieve the best quality of life for their families,” Defensor said in a statement on Sunday.
“Our healthcare workers are entitled to sell their skills to the highest-paying employers around the world – whether in the United States or in the United Kingdom,” Defensor said.
Defensor made the call as he bared that another batch of 9,788 Philippine-educated nurses managed to take the U.S. licensure examination for the first time in 2021, despite tough movement restrictions associated with the lingering pandemic.
“The number is higher by 63 percent compared to the 6,004 Philippine nursing graduates that took America’s eligibility test, or the NCLEX, for the first time in 2020, excluding repeaters,” Defensor said, citing figures from the U.S. National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc.
The NCLEX, or the National Council Licensure Examination, is usually the last hurdle in America’s nurse licensure process. Nursing graduates pay $200 to take the NCLEX in a testing center in Makati City and in other locations around the world.
The number of Philippine-educated nurses taking the NCLEX for the first time is considered a good indicator as to how many of them are trying to obtain employment in America, according to Defensor.
“If we want at least some of our future nursing graduates to practice their profession here at home, we really have to improve in a big way their starting pay and benefits,” Defensor said.
Defensor has been pushing for the passage of House Bill 7933, which seeks to increase by 78 percent, or to P62,449, the entry-level monthly pay of all nurses employed in Philippine government hospitals.
At present, their initial monthly pay is only P35,097 at Salary Grade 15.
Under Defensor’s bill that seeks to amend the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, the starting pay of government nurses shall be bumped up by
six notches to Salary Grade 21.
Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began in April 2020, the government banned 14 groups of newly hired healthcare workers with mission-critical skills – from doctors and nurses to operators and repairmen of medical equipment – from leaving the country.
In December that year, the ban was lifted and replaced with an annual cap of 5,000 overseas deployable healthcare workers. The yearly limit
has since been enlarged to 7,000 but remains in force.