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PrisoNurse Plea

By F. Flordeliza

I already have the visa! My heart is screaming with delight as I read the notification that my application has a decision already when only a few months back, this stage seemed to be so impossible.

College life was like a "Drama Rama sa Hapon", where I had to survive hunger pangs and humiliation of eating instant noodles all the time to sustain me on my outbased duties. Post licensure exam, it was like a road to calvary just to get a slot for training at a public hospital. I had to pay for the "training fee" so I took another job just to make ends meet. They called me "Curacha, ang babaeng walang pahinga" since I was a nurse from 6am to 3pm weekdays and a technical writer from 4pm to 10pm afterwards. Literally, I had to be resourceful to haul my drained soul to the Middle East to get an excellent experience.

After almost four months, my decision letter came and was quick enough to find an agency so I booked the next ticket to Manila to have my medical and IOM done. Lockdown came and along with it put breaks on my career goals. The temporary ban on health care workers ensued like a mugger trying to steal my best laid plans. It was the same day I became a PrisoNurse, trapped in the country where we are not properly compensated nor appreciated. The so called suspension of deployment triggered an outcry for many of us whose papers are already in the pipelines. As we found ourselves uncertain about our future, we tried to lift the ban but to no avail. Our only silver lining was the March 8, 2020 exemption of the finalised contracts.

I thought I only had to wait things out until the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Manila would be lifted, this time my agency stalled me and the rest of the applicants with flimsy excuses. Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine was imposed and my dreams went from attainable to bleak while the people in the Congress made their arguments that the country might lose nurses after the pandemic is over. Even the Department of Health called for a massive volunteer campaign to fight Covid. There were talks to let us go on duty before we can be eventually deployed. Anger and resentment towards the government was quite evident; we are not cannon fodders in a political game where they are trying to make us their pawns.

Finally, I made a resolve to go to Manila right after the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine was lifted. It was now or never so I diligently packed my luggage despite all the uncertainties of the trip but lo and behold, a day before my flight the government took back the Memorandum 47-A or the March 8, 2020 perfected contracts exemption. My heart sank, I cannot count how many times I wanted to just end my life due to the constant opressive stand towards nurses. At the end of the day, I had to get up and fight for my rights so I headed to Manila as planned and continued rallying online to bring back the March 8, 2020 exemption. Right after my IOM, I made it just in time for the online prayer rally. Our fervent prayers was answered, the exemption was reinstated. "Thank you Lord", I cried.

Fast forward, I was waiting for my visa release until I heard another news that another group of nurses were offloaded from the plane because the Bureau of Immigration personnel had the wrong implementation of the Health Care Workers Deployment Suspension. It was another blow in the nursing community. Imagine the sleepless nights that I had to deal with in fear that I might suffer the same fate. News outlets covered the story and the spotlight was now back at us and our plight to set the Philippine Nurses free, their flights were eventually rebooked.

As of the moment, we are pushing for an extension of the Memorandum 47-A. Instead of the usual March 8, 2020, we are pleading that the President will sign that the exemption of perfected contracts be moved to August 31, 2020 to allow more colleagues to finish the pending applications that they have started. After the series of circus like parade of government led propaganda to stop hardworking nurses like me, I feel so emotionally and mentally drained. In the next couple of days, I will say hello to Ninoy Aquino International Airport with an anxious heart hoping for a smooth deployment. The journey towards a real change in the health care system is far from over, we have just begun.

About the Author:

F. Flordeliza has been a Primary Health Care Nurse for four years in the villages of Saudi Arabia and later on an Anaesthesia / Operating Room Nurse in the same country. She, like other Filipino Nurses, has been processing their UK nursing application for months and has been affected by the recent Healthcare deployment ban.

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