PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FIRST it was the laborers; then the nurses and caregivers. Now Filipino doctors are making a beeline for Canada, Finland and Bahrain – a few of the countries that have signified their intention to hire Filipino professionals by the thousands.
Former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez Tan said that although the hiring will create more job opportunities for Filipino health workers, this may lead to more “doctorless” towns and cities in the Philippines.
There are 120 municipalities in the country without a doctor, Tan said. In Western Samar alone, 16 of its 21 towns don’t have doctors, Tan said at a health forum.
The unabating exodus of nurses and doctors overseas has prompted Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo to file a bill that requires newly graduated health care professionals to render at least two years of service before they are allowed to work abroad.
Philippine Medical Association president Rey Melchor Santos pushed for the approval of the magna carta law for health workers which will ensure more benefits for health workers and make them stay in the Philippines.
Private groups have also joined the campaign to reward the health professionals who have opted to stay and serve flag and people. That’s the idea behind the search for the 10 outstanding Filipino physicians, according to book author Mel Velasco, also the search committee chairman.
The search for outstanding doctors is a joint effort of the Jaycees Senate, Health Department, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office among other entities, Velasco said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stressed the need to counter the exodus and allow foreign doctors to undergo training and practice in the Philippines.
Although he has been under attack for this stand, Duque cited the need to fill the vacuum due to the mass exodus of our doctors.
The President’s brother-in-law also quoted reports from the Philippine Nurses Association that an estimated 40,000 Filipino nurses are now working abroad. “There are 7,000 to 10,000 Filipino nurses who leave the country for jobs abroad.”
“They are going to import ‘droves and droves’ of our doctors, and nurses,” said Tan, the Health secretary under the Aquino administration and currently a consultant of the department and a professor at the Philippine General Hospital.
“Canada’s need for our doctors will be for the next 20 years,” said Tan.
“Be ready. We like Filipino doctors,” Galvez quoted one of the officials as saying.
He said Canada has been importing at least 2,400 caregivers from the Philippines annually.
In Finland, Tan said their government wants to hire 200 to 500 Filipino doctors and 2,000 nurses and they have sent a delegation here just to negotiate for this.
In the case of the oil-rich country of Bahrain, Tan said he met with Ministry of Health officials regarding the hiring of Filipino doctors.
“We will be the oasis of health in the Middle East for the next five years,” said Tan as he noted that the demand for Filipino doctors has never stopped.
He said officials of Canada, Finland and Bahrain asserted they will not exploit Filipino doctors and vowed to adhere to the ethical framework in recruiting them.