THESE past years, I have read a lot about the government’s alleged “sins” to the Filipinos, such as corruption and mismanagement, yet I have never let those issues affect me in any way. It was only when I started my medical technology internship last April at a government hospital, the Philippine Orthopedic Center that I saw a manifestation of these “sins”.

Recently, when I was inside one of the badly maintained elevators in the hospital, I overheard two nurses talking about whether to stay or leave the country. One nurse, Hazel, said she was having a hard time giving her family a decent living. She said she was currently fixing her papers so she could go abroad as her current salary might not be enough to meet the rising prices of basic necessities in the Philippines.

A few days later, in the hospital laboratory, I saw my superior in the medical technology staff, Nita, paying her last visit to the hospital, where she had worked for nearly 10 years. Nita told me and the other staff present that she believed she has a better future abroad and that she was glad to be given the opportunity to work there. I was surprised to hear her say these things but what struck me most was what some of the staff, who had worked at the same hospital longer than Nita, say to her: “Nakakainggit ka naman. Sana kami din.”

The exodus of Filipino health workers abroad is not new to me and like other social issues, I have never let this issue affect my career choice in any way. Now, however, I fully realize that for the past 10 years or so, people in the health profession, whether they are nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists or doctors, have been underappreciated. And the government’s neglect of the welfare of these health workers is a mortal sin against the lives of many Filipinos.

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Purged for heaven

I could not agree more with College of Nursing Dean Glenda Vargas when she disclosed in her discurso de apertura that since 2000, at least 3,000 doctors have left to work abroad. She also disclosed that from 2004 to 2005, at least 4,000 physicians took the Nursing licensure exams.

But who can blame them for leaving? According to an Asia Times report, which Vargas also cited, the monthly salary of nurses overseas ranges from US$ 3,000 – US$ 4,000 or P159,000 to P212,000 a month as compared to the $169 or P8,978.97 average salary of nurses in most cities in the Philippines.

I’m sure there are more than a hundred thousand Filipino health workers, who, like Hazel and Nita, would want to work abroad for greener pastures. It is high time that the government appreciate the people who have one of the toughest tasks in the world— preserving other people’s lives.

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This column is dedicated to my parents. It is true that I am not close to both of you, but you two are the main reasons, if not the only reasons, why I am here today. Happy Father’s day to my dad, who is working abroad non-stop to give his family a better life, just like the rest of the healthcare workers abroad struggling to ensure their families’ survival here.

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