THE Department of Health (DoH) will consider allowing nursing graduates still awaiting licensing to work in government hospitals, the new Health Secretary said on Thursday.

“We have several nurses that haven’t passed the board examinations and don’t have a licenses. In the government, you cannot work without a license, but I’m willing to take them if they have a diploma,” newly appointed Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa told ABS-CBN News Channel. 

Under the proposal, nursing graduates will be given time — possibly five years — to take and pass the licensure examination while employed, Mr. Herbosa said.

“I’ll make them eligible so if you have a diploma from an accredited school, I’ll give you a period of time to pass it. This is same in the US, (which accepts) board-eligible nursing graduates. They give them five years to pass the exam,” he said.

He said that the DoH might even invest in mentoring graduates to pass the board exam.

Mr. Herbosa said he still needs to consult with the Professional Regulation Commission whether the law needs to be revised before unlicensed nursing graduates can be employed.

Government hospitals have a shortage of about 4,000 nurses, Mr. Herbosa noted.

“Board-eligible (nursing graduates find work) as flight attendants in big airlines, I see them in call centers,” he said. “They should be… taking care of sick people, they should be (practicing in) rural areas.”

About 40% to 50% of nurses in private hospitals have quit in the past two years due to dissatisfaction with salaries, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. has said.

While acknowledging the right of health workers to leave the country to pursue opportunity, Mr. Herbosa said the government should address their concerns to encourage them to stay.

“The right to a better life is embodied in our Constitution. If a nurse wants to go abroad to get a salary that I cannot give, I shouldn’t stop that person because I should look at why I cannot pay the same amount,” he said. “I will (pursue solutions) to make them stay.”

As of December, the monthly salary for nurses in private hospitals averaged P12,000, while those working in the public sector were receiving an average of P35,097, according to Filipino Nurses United. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza