The Philippines Bars Doctors From Going Abroad To Boost Health Force
Inside Quarantine Facilities as Duterte Likely to Extend Philippines Coronavirus Lockdown. A worker wearing a protective mask stands in a quarantine facility under construction at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila, the Philippines. (Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/BloombergTopics)

The Philippines Bars Doctors From Going Abroad To Boost Health Force

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines has temporarily barred doctors, nurses and other health workers from leaving for overseas work amid the coronavirus outbreak, a move that irked its top diplomat who pledged to fight the ban.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued a resolution on April 2 halting the departure of workers in 14 medical professions for the duration of the nation’s state of emergency.

The ban should have been announced weeks ago instead of catching Filipino workers by surprise, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin said on his official Twitter account. Nurses returning to their posts at the U.K.’s National Health Service were recently stopped at the Manila airport, he said.

“The fight is not over. We will fight the ban in the cabinet,” Locsin said on Twitter. “We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for work.”

Doctors Dying

The Philippines, which sends thousands of medical practitioners to work overseas, seeks to reinforce a healthcare system overwhelmed by the pandemic. There were 4,428 coronavirus cases as of Saturday, with deaths reaching 247. Two dozen doctors have died from Covid-19, according to an estimate of the Private Hospitals Association.

“In the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law,” the government can curtail travel, according to its charter. The Philippines has locked down its main island of 60 million people since mid-March to the end of the month.

Medical workers affected by the ban face financial uncertainty. Kaira Brillantes and her mother, who are both nurses. were originally scheduled to head back to their overseas job on March 24, but have been delayed by the lockdown and its extension. They are trying reschedule their flights yet again but are worried they would be barred from leaving.

“We don’t have any income now and our expenses are still double - we have bills in the Philippines and abroad,” Brillantes said in an interview via Facebook. “I’m not blaming the president. Whatever we earn abroad, we work hard for. We aren’t included in any financial assistance” in the Philippines, said the 27-year-old nurse.

The nation only has six doctors for every 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, among the lowest in the region.

Singapore’s ratio is almost 23 and Malaysia is at 15.36. More than 30,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and other health workers left the Philippines in 2010 alone, according to latest available data.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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