March 29, 2006
RE: Health workers migration deepens Asian health system crisis,
I am one of the 15,000 nurses that Peter Cordingley, the World Health Organization's regional spokesman, estimates leave the Philippines each year to seek jobs overseas.
For many years, I worked as an underpaid and overworked community health nurse in the countrysides of Pangasinan, struggling to provide better opportunities for my husband and two young children, struggling to serve the Filipino people the best way possible within a deepening political and economic crisis in the Philippines.
Because of this crisis, I was forced to migrate abroad for greener pastures, Canada being my destination. Quickly did I realize that my expectations of a better life in Canada were far beyond my reach.
I have been here for 2 ½ years not working as a nurse despite Canada's nursing shortage. Instead I work as a slave under Canada Immigration's Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). I slept in an un-insulated poorly-ventilated storage room, I hand-washed clothing including blood-soiled underwear, I provided 24-hour domestic help for elderly, children, and the family pets earning 4 times less than minimum wage.
I have been deskilled because of the Philippine government's Labour Export Program. My personal and professional development has regressed because of Canadian Immigration programs, like the LCP, and of discriminatory barriers to accreditation. I am segregated as slave labour.
I have already had 6 employers because one laid me off, one died, one lost his job so he couldn't afford me anymore, one fired me because I refused to sleep in a stranger's house, one I escaped from abusive conditions where I ran through the forest at night with only the dim light of the nearest town as my guide.
6 employers and thousands of dollars in accreditation fees and immigration fees including 6 work permit fees later, do I and the thousands of other Filipino nurses under the LCP really have a better life in Canada? I, like many others, am forcibly separated from our families. I, like many others, am at high risk of deportation because to date, I only have 8 months declared of the LCP's required 24 months within 3 years. 15 ½ months were spent waiting for my work permits.
The Philippine government should take more responsibility for genuine economic development that would provide livelihood at home instead of exporting us. Meanwhile, Canada should recognize Filipino nurses and other health workers now instead of using us as cheap labour. The systematic export of health workers only hurt the Filipino people at home and abroad.
Member of the Filipino Nurses Support Group
Vancouver, BC, Canada