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Bishop Questions Limit on Medical Workers’ Deployment

Bishop Ruperto Santos says the cap is not a solution, but improving the working conditions of healthcare workers is.

While he lauds the lifting of the deployment ban on healthcare workers, Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga expressed his concern over the cap on medical workers who will be allowed to leave and work abroad each year.

“Now as the President lifted it, why limit it or put a number,” said Bishop Santos, who is the vice-chairman of the bishops’ Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. (Read: PH Gets ‘Safe Travels’ Stamp From International Tourism Council)

“We always appeal before and affirm that already existing contracts should not be suspended for deployment,” he said.

Lift of Deployment Ban

On November 21, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the deployment ban on healthcare workers.

However, only 5,000 healthcare workers will be deployed each year — that is less than half of the 13,000 healthcare workers who leave the country to work abroad. The government says this is to ensure that the country will have enough medical professionals to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Read: DOH Seeks Additional 3,000 Healthcare Workers in Fight Against COVID-19)

Last April, the government suspended the deployment of medical workers abroad “until the national health state of emergency is lifted.” The travel restrictions were first eased in September, allowing workers with existing deployment contracts as of August 31 to leave the country.

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Passengers, some of them in protective suits, check-in at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 on Friday, March 27, 2020 for their flights abroad. (Photo from KJ Rosales / The Philippine STAR / OneNews.PH)

Not a Solution

Bishop Santos said that the limit to deployment is not the solution to ensuring the country has enough health workers for the COVID-19 response.

“To entice them to remain here is to improve their working conditions and security, better benefits, and promotion of their welfare,” he said. (Read: How Do Health Workers Ensure Their and Their Patients’ Safety?)

Another way, he said, is to make it mandatory for fresh graduates to serve the country first for at least a year before seeking work abroad.

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