Philippine ambassador visits ACFE

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The Philippine Ambassador to Australia, Her Excellency Minda Calaguian-Cruz visited the Australian Centre of Further Education (ACFE) as part of her first official State Visit to Victoria.

The ambassador addressed a group of ACFE nursing bridging program students, nurse educators, employment agencies, hospital partners and migration agents. In her speech, she expressed her confidence to the Filipino nurses embarking to practice in Australia. She said that the Filipino nurse is well known around the world for their best bedside manner and the level of care that they provide to patients.

Philippines is the largest exporter of nurses in the world supplying 25% of all overseas nurses. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study reported that one in every six foreign born nurses in the OECD countries is from the Philippines. It was also revealed that of all employed Filipino RNs, roughly 85% are working overseas. This is brought about by the lack of jobs for nurses in the Philippines.

There are at least 200,000 registered nurses in the Philippines working different jobs as the previous government failed to increase the number of nurses in government hospitals.

Before the end of President Aquino’s term, he vetoed one of the “highly anticipated law by the country’s Nurses, a law that seeks to improve the Nursing profession, including the salary increase for Nurses to almost P25,000.00” and increasing the number of nurses in government hospitals.

Ambassador Cruz said that Filipinos should be working overseas “as a choice and not as a necessity” . With the current situation of our nurses in the Philippines, working overseas is definitely a necessity, with limited jobs, low pay and unsafe practices.

Apart from Philippine nurses salary level, the working conditions like unsafe practices of our nurses in the Philippines is likewise an issue that pushes the nurses to find employment outside the country.

On the working condition of nurses in the Philippines, Gloria Amariego, Chief nurse at the Philippine General Hospital said that the present practice is that each nurse is taking care of around 30 patients or more per duty. The ideal ratio for the nurse to ensure quality and safe care for their patients should be 1 nurse per 12 patients, she stressed.

In Australia, the ratio of a nurse is one nurse to four patients during the day shift and one nurse to eight patients during the night shift.

The ambassador also mentioned the possible issue of brain drain of nurses. She said that with the growing population in the Philippines, we might not have enough nurses if we are not careful of the result of brain drain.

“Brain drain is a thoroughly researched and documented phenomenon where source countries such as the Philippines supply nurses to the world, thereby losing their best qualified nurses to developed countries.” According to Stephanie Short (et al) in a paper that explored issues in health professional migration taking the Philippines as a case study entitled “Filipino nurses down under’: Filipino nurses in Australia.

If we were to use the Skills Occupation List (SOL) Occupation Ceiling Value, as of press time, it shows that 16,346 were allocated for the financial year 2016-2017. So far, there are only 2,050 invitations released for Migration.

Before the Health Workforce Australia (HWA) was closed and transferred to the Department of Health in August 2014, it released a detailed study “Australia’s Future Health Workforce Nurses)” that showed 85,000 shortfall until 2025 and 130,000 in 2030.

Although Australia still needs more nurses, there will be a strong shift towards the sponsorship of overseas trained nurses with specialisation like theatre nurses, cardiology nurses and perioperative nurses.

ACFE Managing Director and CEO Kudrat Makkar assured the Ambassador Cruz that the Filipino nurses are getting the best bridging program that prepares them for the work that they will be doing in Australia as RNs.

In closing, the Ambassador challenged the Filipino nurses in Australia to share their knowledge of good practice to our Health system in the Philippines.

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