The Senate Committee on Health and Demography, joint with the Committees on Finance, Labor, Employment and Human Resources, held on 11 January 2011 the first-ever official Senate committee hearing for the year, a few days before the start of the regular session. The joint committee hearing–which also witnessed the first-ever attendance of recent grantee of amnesty Senator Antonio Trillanes IV of a committee hearing inside the halls of the Senate–sought to discuss and investigate on the alleged exploitative practices of some hospitals that employ registered nurses and nursing graduates as “on-the-job trainees” rather than regular employees and, worse, even charge such trainees fees for the “training expenses”.
The hearing revealed that there is a current widespread practice in several hospitals in the country, both private and government, wherein licensed practical nurses (LPNs), registered nurses (RNs), and even licensed physical therapists (PTs) are being engaged to work not as regular employees but either as volunteers or on-the-job trainees, and without compensation. Worse, these nurses and PTs are even engaged to work for a fee, meaning that they are the ones being required to pay the hospitals in exchange for the work opportunities and in payment of alleged fees for “training” and “certification”.
The hearing also revealed that there are presently 160,000 nurses that are either unemployed or underemployed, and this number may soon balloon to more than 200,000 after the release of the results of the recent nursing board exams.
Senator Bongbong Marcos, consistent with the unanimous observations of Senators Pia Cayetano and Trillanes and the other resource persons involved in the nursing profession, said that there is indeed an oversupply of health workers and a dearth in the available jobs, coupled with a meager budget for personnel services. He said that the government should find ways to curb the overproduction of the labor supply, such as in the form of imposing moratorium on the creation of nursing schools and to enforce school-accreditation systems. Also, there should be a coordinate effort to implement an effective mechanism to protect the existing labor supply of nurses and other health workers, in the form of local job production and overseas placement.
In regard the so-called “forced trainings” or the “volunteerism for a fee” of nurses and other health workers, Senator Bongbong said that the government should find ways to stop the exploitative practice and to make sure that the “training” programs, whether fee-charging or not, should be formal, valid and legal, and done in good faith by accredited or authorized hospitals. More importantly, the certifications issued as a result of these trainings should really benefit and mean something to the trainees and will be recognized by local and foreign hospitals for employment purposes.