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ADB supports incentives for nurses settling, working in underserved areas

NURSES must be offered incentives to settle and work in rural and underserved areas, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

“With the ongoing escalation of health challenges across Asia and the Pacific, the nursing profession assumes an increasingly pivotal role in meeting the evolving healthcare needs,” Ayesha Jamshaid de Lorenzo, health specialist at the ADB’s Human and Social Development Sector Office, said in a blog.

She noted that the region’s nurses are in short supply and an “overall decline in the dignity of the profession” amid “chronic underinvestment” in education and training, with their numbers not keeping up with population growth. 

“Ultimately, investing in the nursing sector not only addresses immediate healthcare needs but also has the potential to create millions of new jobs, spur economic growth, and foster broader socioeconomic development across the region,” Ms. De Lorenzo said.

Governments must invest in education and training, increase funding for nursing programs, and align such programs with each population’s healthcare needs.

“Increasing nursing sector challenges in the context of the broader macro-trends require health systems to review the effectiveness of past policies and strategies and adopt new, fit-for-purpose approaches to transform their health workforce from planning, education, deployment, managing, and rewarding workers,” she added.

By 2030, the global health sector could face a shortage of 18 million healthcare workers, the World Health Organization estimates.

The Asia-Pacific region in particular faces an increasing demand for nurses amid ageing populations, climate vulnerability, emerging diseases, and growing populations.

However, inadequate healthcare policy drives nurses to migrate to countries with more established healthcare systems. 

“For example, despite the Philippines being a major provider of nurses abroad, it faces chronic understaffing in its own hospitals due to low pay, lack of tenure, and burnout,” Ms. De Lorenzo said. 

Filipino nurses are lowest paid among their Southeast Asian peers, according to data aggregator IPrice. An experienced nurse is estimated to earn 57% less than an equivalently credentialed nurse in Vietnam, it added. 

A total of 6,789 Filipino nursing graduates took the US licensure exam in the first three months of the year, Quezon City Rep. Marvin D. Rillo said in a statement.

“We expect a large number of Philippine nursing graduates to persist in pursuing their career aspirations in America and other foreign labor markets as long as we continue to underpay them here at home,” said Mr. Rillo, who co-chairs the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

Outmigration, which boosts remittances to nurses’ home countries, must be balanced with other strategies to help address the source countries’ own growing demand for nurses, Ms. De Lorenzo said. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz