Instead of wearing their regular white caps, a group of nurses donned red headpieces in a rally in Manila on Wednesday to demand better pay and working conditions in government-run hospitals and other medical facilities.
Members of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) gathered in front of the Philippine General Hospital on Taft Avenue to draw attention to the plight of public sector nurses.
“The white cap is the symbol of nurses. We always wear that. But we wore red caps today because we are bleeding away and suffering in our passion to serve the people,” said PNA president Mila Llanes, who led an assembly of around 30 nurses for the group’s “Red Cap Movement.”
The nurses called on the government to enforce the P25,000 floor wage for government-employed nurses, channel funds to more benefits, create more plantilla positions for nurses and end contractual hiring.
The 2002 Nursing Law sets the minimum wage at P25,000 monthly for newly employed nurses in government service, but it has yet to be implemented more than a decade later, with the entry-level pay still at P15,000 to P18,000, Llanes said.
She also noted that “government hospitals do not follow the prescribed nurse-to-bed ratio of one nurse per 12 to 15 beds. Instead, nurses sometimes have to serve triple that number, even if they are in critical care.”
“This poses risks to patients, who are entitled to the best medical care. We cannot do that with an inadequate number of nurses,” Llanes added.
Data from the Department of Health showed that the number of government-employed nurses rose to 21,000 in 2013 from 18,000 in 2005, but the number of plantilla or regular positions for nurses did not increase, she said.
“We need permanent jobs for nurses because some of them are employed under job orders or as contractual employees. There are no new plantilla positions created for nurses even if there’s a need to staff hospitals with more of them, while over 200,000 nurses in the country remain unemployed,” Llanes said.
These problems are nothing new, she said. “When I was starting out as a nurse in the 1980s, our cry back then was about our take-home pay being not enough to even ‘take us home.’ Virtually nothing has changed since.”