MANILA, Sept 23 (Mabuhay) –The government needs at least 6,000 doctors and around 4,000 nurses as the Philippines continues to deal with COVID-19, Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo said on Thursday.

Quimbo made the remark on while sponsoring on the House floor the proposed P301-billion budget for 2023 of the Department of Health.

The senior vice chairperson of the House appropriations panel confirmed the numbers upon questioning of House Deputy Minority Leader France Castro of ACT Teachers party-list.

“It is a matter of finding the right people and the right skills. But the DOH is making use of whatever positions are available,” Quimbo said.

“New hospitals and offices will be built, and these would need manpower and so it bodes well that there are plantilla positions to be filled,” she added.

Castro seemed baffled over the huge number of unfilled positions.

“I don’t believe that no one is applying for these many unfilled positions,” Castro said.

Quimbo said the number was part of the 21,021 unfilled positions in the DOH.

She said recruitment was tough due to the lower salaries offered in the government sector.

“It is really hard to recruit a doctor to work in the government since the compensation in the private sector is higher,” Quimbo said.

“But rest assured that the agency is working on ways to upgrade the salary grades of our doctors, including psychologists, to address our mental health needs,” she added.

Castro then sought the DOH’s take on proposals to raise the salary of government nurses to P50,000 a month.

Quimbo, however, conceded that the said amount needed a lot of work.

“This is being studied. Of course, maganda ang panukala na ‘yan na P50,000 a month kasi pagod na pagod na ang ating nurses, pero importante rin na walang magiging wage distortions,” Quimbo said.

“Kasi kapag itinaas ang isang item, domino effect po iyon ay kailangan rin mag adjust [ng salary rate] ng ibang position kaya kailangan pag-aralang mabuti,” she added.  (MNS)