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Nurses were expecting that Senate Bill 270/House Bill 6411 also known as the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2016 will be passed into law because its provisions align with the government’s vision for the future of the country’s health care system with nurses serving as one of its backbones.
What’s actually harder to accept is that the proposed nursing law was viewed by the majority of the public as a law to increase the salary of nurses. It’s hard to tell if this misconception was caused by how the media framed the news about it or due to the public not taking the time to really look into and see all of its provisions. The proposed nursing law would have guaranteed the delivery of basic health care services to the public by ensuring an adequate number of nurses in the country. I know that there is an argument that the country already has a surplus of nurses. What they failed to understand is that the law will essentially require the state to provide funding for enough plantilla positions for nurses ensuring an appropriate nurse-patient ratio in the country.
It also has provisions requiring nurses to undergo educational activities or training that will further enhance their professional nursing skills and expand specializations allowing nurses to take on more roles in the health care delivery system. It also provides more enforcing powers to the Board of Nursing in making decisions and policies relevant to the nursing profession. Despite all the carefully crafted provisions of the proposed law, it was not enough to convince the then-president to sign it into law. The main reason cited by the president for his decision to veto the proposed law is that “it will have dire financial consequences” and that the salary increase included in the proposed law will distort the existing wage level in the health sector.
The Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 specifically states that “the minimum base pay for nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than salary Grade15 under the Republic Act No. 6578.” At that time, nurses’ compensation is on Salary Grade 11 and the CNA states that it must be in Salary Grade 15, the same level where it should be based on RA9173. However, the president stated that the government simply cannot accept a four-grade increase, from Salary Grade 11 to 15, because optometrists, dentists, and doctors would end up receiving less than the nurses if the proposed law is passed.
Another factor that contributed to its rejection is the perceived possibility of an increase in health care costs in the country and private hospitals downsizing their manpower to comply with the salary required by the proposed law.