An organization of nurses questioned Friday the government’s decision to lift the moratorium that prohibited colleges and universities from offering nursing studies.
Filipino Nurses United (FNU) president Maristela Abenojar, in an interview on ANC’s “Rundown,” said they believe there was no basis for lifting the moratorium.
Commission on Higher Education chair Prospero de Vera III earlier said they decided to end the 2011 moratorium after conducting a comprehensive assessment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know exactly why they have lifted the moratorium because there is, I believe there’s no basis, like for example what they are saying that we lack supply of nurses. That’s not true,” she said.
Abenojar said the Philippines has produced more than 935,000 nurses as of June 2022.
“We have plenty of graduates. Actually as of June this year, we already have around 935,000 produced registered nurses. And of that number 316,405 nurses are working outside of the Philippines as migrant workers,” she said.
She said that the problem of lack of nursing schools in some regions of the country—such as in Eastern Visayas, some parts of Western Visayas, Caraga, Soccsksargen, and Zamboanga Peninsula—must be solved on a case-to-case basis.
Abenojar said CHED must also improve the quality of nursing education in the country.
“I think that CHED should address the problem on attrition rate in terms of the number of (BS Nursing) graduates out of so many enrollees. In the last 5 years, according to CHED they have recorded, from 2016-2021, a total of 347,798 enrollees. And only 16 percent graduated, or about 56,000.”
“So that alone is something to be addressed urgently, because it reflects the kind of education, the quality of education that is being offered by the 491 educational institutions offering nursing courses in the country,” she said.
“Secondly also, they have to look into the very low passing rate in terms of nurse licensure examination. Because in the past more than 2 decades, from year 2000 to this year, out of 1.3 million examinees who are, who took the nurse licensure examination, only 43 percent or 598,000+ have passed the board examination,” she said.
Meanwhile, universities and colleges may submit their applications starting July 14 to open new nursing programs after the government lifted the decade-old moratorium.
De Vera defended the lifting of the moratorium, saying the CHED has carefully considered the supply and demand for nurses, citing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
As of now, a total of 201,265 job positions for nurses must be filled nationwide, suggesting a huge gap between the UN SDGs ideal number of 300,470 nurses and the actual number of nurses in the Philippines, of around 90,205.
CHED also said they have to address issues that have caused the moratorium in the first place.
De Vera recalled that this included an oversupply of graduates with around 200,000 unemployed nursing graduates; a gradual decline in the performance of nursing education graduates in the Nurse Licensure Examinations (NLE); proliferation of institutions offering BS Nursing programs, some barely reaching the standard passing rate of 30 percent; and worst, students paying for hospitals just to be trained, due to a lack of affiliations in base hospitals.
“If you immediately lift it, you might go back to the same situation before 2011, and that situation was of crisis proportions at that time, so we have to be very careful about lifting the moratorium, and we must ensure that the problems encountered before will not happen now,” he said.
Moreover, De Vera noted that the CHED will now allow Department of Health (DOH) Level 2 accredited hospitals to be affiliated as base hospitals or training facilities for students.
“We are being more flexible in the opening of new programs by allowing Level 2 DOH accredited hospitals that can become the training hospitals of [institutions] that have nursing programs, because of the need for more nursing students and graduates,” he said.
But he emphasized that CHED would be strict in considering these applications to ensure the problems encountered before the moratorium will not happen again, as well as to supply an adequate number of licensed nurses, especially in the regions in need of more nursing schools.
These include MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Eastern Visayas, CARAGA, BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), CAR, and SOCCSKSARGEN, which are in urgent need of nurses.
“We will not prioritize. We are lifting the moratorium in all areas, but the color-coding will alert the universities that when they apply for the new nursing programs the probability that the nursing programs will be approved is higher in the areas where there is really a need. For example, there are areas where we lack base hospitals for them to train. So unless they have base hospitals, we cannot allow them to open nursing programs because their students will not have a place to train,” he said.
Classified under Code Yellow or High Level are Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Western Visayas, Bicol Region, Davao Region, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon, while the rest remains under Code Green or with a low-level demand.