Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (File photo)

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday encouraged nurses affected by the deployment ban to grab the offer to attend to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patients in the Philippines, saying that availing of the emergency hiring program of the Department of Health (DOH) will help boost their chances of landing a job abroad when the ban is lifted.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said nurses with experience dealing with Covid-19 patients will give them the advantage which foreign employers are looking for.

“Sa tingin ko po kung kayo ay mag-apply dito sa emergency recruitment ng ating gobyerno at nagtrabaho po habang may Covid, naku, pag-aagawan po kayo lalo pag natapos po itong pandemic na ito (I think that if you apply for a job in the emergency recruitment of our government and work while we continue to grapple with Covid, you’ll even be more sought-after when this pandemic is over),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.

Roque emphasized that nurses have to gain years’ worth of experience working as a nurse in the country before working overseas.

“With your clinical experience at the time of Covid, you will become the subject of headhunters. So konting tiyaga lang po (have a little more perseverance) but take advantage of the opportunity na rin po (also) to prove your worth in the Philippines as clinical nurses,” he said.

He also appealed to nurses to understand that the government is also looking for their safety by preventing them to work abroad.

“Ang unang konsiderasyon po ng ating Presidente ay pangalagaan po ang kalusugan ng ating mga health workers dahil ang pupuntahan po nila ay mas malala pong kaso ng Covid-19 (The first consideration of our President is to ensure the health of our health workers because the countries they want to work for are facing a worse Covid-19 situation),” he said.

According to Roque, healthcare workers should also take into consideration their duty to serve fellow Filipinos first.

“Charity begins at home. Meron naman po tayong mga bakanteng posisyon. Dito po muna sana tayo magtrabaho (There are vacant positions here. I hope you consider working here first),” he said.

Last week, Roque appealed to nurses’ sense of nationalism to convince them to stay while the country is facing a state of public health emergency.

“Sa tingin ko po, sa panahon ng pandemiya, mananaig naman po ang nasyonalismo sa puso at damdamin ng ating mga nurses (I think at the time of the pandemic, nationalism will prevail in the hearts and feelings of our nurses),” Roque said.

He said the government is already providing healthcare workers additional benefits such as risk allowance, PHP15,000 for those who get infected with Covid-19, life insurance, free accommodation and transportation, and free and regular testing.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) earlier issued Resolution 09, temporarily suspending the deployment of all healthcare workers "until the national state of emergency is lifted”.

However, healthcare workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to work abroad.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases also released resolution No. 64 temporarily suspending the deployment of medical professionals.

Earlier this month, Malacañang announced plans to hire 10,000 healthcare workers to boost the workforce.

‘It’s okay not to be okay’

Amid concerns that mental stress caused by the persisting Covid-19 pandemic is taking a toll on Filipinos, Roque urged the public to look after their mental health by seeking help from medical experts and spiritual leaders.

“Whether it be a medical professional or a spiritual leader, kinakailangan lang po humanap tayo ng kausap (We just need to find someone to talk to),” Roque said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire urged the public to contact the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) crisis hotline at 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP).

“Hindi lang po dapat physical health ang tinitignan natin kundi dapat healthy rin po tayo mentally. So ito pong ating mga kababayan na nakakaranas ng fears, anxieties, depression, feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, maari po kayo tumawag dito po sa aming mga hotlines (We should not only take care of our physical health, but we should also ensure that we are healthy mentally. So, our citizens who feel fears, anxieties, depression, feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, you may call our hotlines),” she said.

She said the public can also contact partner institutions of the Department of Health namely the Philippine Mental Health Association, the University of the Philippines Diliman Psychosocial Services, and the Ateneo Bulatao Center for Psychological Services.

“It’s okay not to be okay. Lahat po tayo ay nakakaranas ng mga ganyang pakiramdam sa ngayon dahil sa sitwasyon na ito. Pero kailangan lang po ang suporta ng pamilya, suporta ng komunidad (All of us experience these feelings because of the current situation. But we need support from our families and the community),” he said. (PNA)