President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with representatives of the healthcare cluster of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) on Nov. 24, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Bongbong Marcos Facebook page)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said the government might offer scholarships for nurses and other medical workers to convince them to stay and serve in the Philippines.

During his meeting with representatives of the healthcare cluster of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) on Thursday, Marcos said that while the government can't prevent nurses from leaving for high-paying jobs abroad, those who would avail of the government scholarship program must at least serve their country for a couple of years.

“Lahat, nurses. Naghahanap… (All of them are looking for nurses). Everybody that I talk to, especially from the States and from Europe… So the only thing is that the scholarship program, that you know, you can’t hold people back from a better life, from a better living…” the President said during the meeting.

“But I think it’s fair that if you provide scholarship, that you expect that there are… mag-serbisyo muna sila ng ilang taon (They should at least serve for a few years). Hindi babayaran ‘yung scholarship eh. They don’t need to pay that,” he added.

During the meeting, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the agency had started discussions with the deans of the University of the Philippines and other allied healthcare services for the government’s “ladderized” scholarship program.

Vergeire said the program will take two to three years for it to bear the fruit of producing more nurses.

Vergeire also told the President that the DOH had initial talks with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) for exchange programs with other countries needing healthcare workers, as well as securing deals with the country's bilateral partners for scholarships in the Philippines.

“So in turn we are going to propose that if we can provide them with these numbers that they need, they [would] provide us also, for example, scholarships for a number of our healthcare workers here,” Vergeire said.

She said that graduates have to stay in the country for two years before they can be deployed abroad.

The PSAC, for its part, expressed commitment to help the Marcos administration in strengthening the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) by providing a third-party assessment that will focus on addressing operational gaps in claims filing, membership application, digitalization and actuarial valuation, among others.

The PSAC also vowed to work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to upgrade its systems to obtain accreditation with various international regulatory bodies and raise awareness about the value of generic drugs. (PNA)