Senators Aquino, Villar to file bill seeking pay hike for nurses

The Comprehensive Nursing Law is not dead. Senators Bam Aquino and Cynthia Villar committed to file the bill seeking pay hike for nurses.

In separate letters to radio anchor and businessman Carl Balita, the two lawmakers vowed to file their own versions of the measure that aims to improve the nursing profession in the country including the salary increase for registered nurses.

"I wish to express my solidarity with Filipino nurses in their continuing hope for change and for the realization of their right to better opportunities, recognition, support and compensation for the great service that they perform for the Filipino people," Aquino said in his letter.

"I will be filing the Comprehensive Nursing Law in the 17th Congress so that this bill can again be taken up in the Senate. We are committed to working with our fellow legislators to push for the passage of legislation in support of Filipino nurses," he wrote.

In her letter, Villar conveyed that she shares Balita's sentiments about the presidential veto of the proposed Comprehensive Nursing Law, which she co-authored in the 16th Congress.

"I agree with the call of our nursing associations, here and abroad, that there is a need for the enactment of a new law to bring the reforms needed to upgrade the nursing profession, truly make the profession at par with the global standards, and more importantly, to adopt measures that will protect the dignity of our nurses and prohibit their engagement in precarious working conditions," the lawmaker said.

"Let me assure you that I will file this coming 17th Congress a version of the Comprehensive Nursing Bill, and hope that, upon appropriate proceedings, it will be approved soonest so that it may help in alleviating the issues and concerns confronting the nursing profession," Villar added.

Earlier this month, outgoing president Benigno Aquino III rejected the consolidated House Bill No. 6411 and Senate Bill No. 2720 entitled "An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Nursing Law Towards Quality Health Care System, and Appropriating Funds Therefor."

Among the provisions of the bill is the setting of the minimum base pay of Filipino nurses to Salary Grade 15 which is equivalent to P24,887 for public and private health institutions.

"While we recognize the objective of the bill to promote the well-being of the country's nurses, we cannot support the bill in its present form because of its dire financial consequences," Aquino explained why he vetoed the proposed Comprehensive Nursing Law. "Granting the pay hike will not only undermine the existing salary structure of medical and health care practitioners, but will also cause wage distortion not only among health professionals but also among other professionals in government."

"Such preferential treatment in favor of nurses over and above other health professionals and professionals in the government service appears unconscionable and violative of the equal protection clause enshrined in the Philippine Constitution," he said.

Besides affecting the viability of private hospitals and non-government health institutions, the outgoing president believes that the proposed law could cause "unintended repercussions, such as possible downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in health care costs."

While the intention of both senators are beneficial for nurses, there are some who doubted them — Aquino being the cousin of the outgoing president who vetoed the law and Villar for her comments against nurses over three years ago.

During a political question and answer program aired on GMA News TV in March 2013, the lady senator said "sinasabi po namin sa kanila na actually, hindi naman kailangan ang nurse ay matapos ng BSN kasi itong ating mga nurses, gusto lang nila maging room nurse. Sa America or sa other countries, ano lang sila, yung parang mag-aalaga...hindi naman sila kailangang ganoon kagaling kasi sa ibang country."

Balita, who himself is a nurse by profession, urged his fellow nurses to be positive.