The US Senate ha just passed an immigration bill that, among other provisions, lifts the limit on the number of foreign nurses who can immigrate to the United States. To be sure, the bill faces strong opposition from the US House of Representatives, and the provision lifting the cap on the number of special visas for nurses is not even on the counterpart House bill. It looks unlikely that the provision, as phrased, will make it into law. But the possibility of the flow of US-bound Filipino nurses turning into a flood does exist, if not now, then when the nursing shortage in the United States becomes especially acute. Are we ready for it?
Accordingly, the shortage of registered nurses in the United States has already reached 118,000 last April 2006. In 2002, the US government estimated it to hit 800,000 by 2020. With the said forecast, Sen. Sam Brownback was prompted to sponsor the proposal. It does not only affect the health care system of Africa and India, but as well as our country, the Philippines. Our country already sends several thousand nurses to the United States every year; in fact, we are their biggest source of foreign nurses. A registered nurse is expected earn from US$36,000 (about Php.1.9M) a year onwards depending on the state and the hospital. In contrast, a nurse can expect to earn US$2,000 (about Php. 106, 000 or less than Php 9,000 a month) in the Philippines. Given these numbers, an open-door policy for foreign nurses can only bring more applicants to America’s doorstep. But if the Philippine health care system is already under heavy strain because several thousand nurses leave for abroad every year, that same open-door policy may actually force the system’s collapse. Eventually, our country will be futile and will continue to have a mediocre and deteriorating system. Who can blame these nurses? Truly, the sense of patriotism does not lie in our heart. However, practicality is best observed when your own country does not value the significance of your services. Such scenario manifests the weakening of the unity of the Filipino. On the other side of the coin, the continued deployment of Filipino workers abroad also helped sustain the level of remittances during the first quarter of 2006. During the first quarter of this year, the OFW remittance soared to US$2.8Billion. The peso continued to strengthen against the US dollar along with other regional currencies on a year-to-date basis. Compared to its end-2005 level, the peso appreciated by 4.0 percent against the US dollar as of 4 April 2006.13. On a quarterly basis, the peso appreciated to an average of P51.88/US$1 from an average of P54.63/US$1 in the previous quarter. The continued strengthening of the peso was a result of strong dollar inflows from foreign direct and portfolio investments fueled in turn by positive investor sentiment on the economy and on fiscal performance. The exchange rate was also supported by continued inflows from OFW remittances in time for the graduation season and for tuition fee payments.