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The chairman of the Senate finance committee threatened to delay the submission of the Department of Health’s budget to the Senate floor unless it resolves the unemployment problem of 287,000 nurses in the country.

During Wednesday’ hearing of the committee, Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirmed that there are 287,000 nurses who are either “unemployed in their profession”, or performing jobs other than nursing.

Ona said the ideal doctor to patient ratio should be 1:10, but acknowledged that this was not the reality in government hospitals. “I’m sad to tell you that in our government hospitals, the ratio is 1:30,” he told the committee.

Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the committee, professed surprise about Ona’s revelation, and noted that the DOH has a P1 billion allocation for unfilled positions.

“We were told that there are 287,000 who are not employed in the nursing profession, meaning that there are nurses who end up in call centers, in doctors clinics and while employed, they are not employed in their profession, and some are just plainly unemployed,” he said at a press conference.

“At first glance there appears to be a mismatch between the currents graduates produced by our education system and the needs of our industry. But upon a closer analysis, it would appear that there’s almost a criminal neglect,” he said.
“Why do I call it almost a criminal neglect? Because right now in all these government hospitals, you will see a lack of staff,” he pointed out.

Drilon said the DOH has a P1 billion allocation under the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund, which can be drawn once a position is filled up. It turned out, he said that the problem was that the Department of Budget and Management and the DOH differed in the classification of technical and administrative posts.

“The DOH considers a good number of positions as technical, not administrative. On the other hand, the same position is considered administrative by the DBM. So what happens, the DBM will not allow the filling up of these positions, and yet we have 287,000 nurses who are not employed in the nursing position and whose services are needed by these government hospitals,” he said

Drilon then called on the the DOH and the DBM to sit down and address the problem. “I’d like to see this problem solved within the next 30 to 60 days and I will not report the heath budget to the plenary, to the Senate floor, unless this issue is resolved so as to put pressure on the bureaucracy,” the senator added.