POSTSCRIPT / September 15, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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How Marxist missed boat on RM Awards

Most politicians clawing their way to the top may have been shocked to hear that a former state health minister of India actually declined this year’s 64th Ramon Magsaysay Award, regarded as the Asian version of the Nobel Prize.

K. K. Shailaja declines her nomination to the Ramon Magsaysay Award. Photo: Esquire PH

The magazine India Today reported last Sept. 4 why former Kerala health minister K. K. Shailaja turned down the award that would have recognized her exemplary work in public health, particularly in her battling the bat-borne Nipah virus and the COVID-19 pandemic in her state.

A leading member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the 65-year-old K. K. Shailaja was quoted as saying that the decision to not accept the award was made after a discussion within their party.

The newsweekly quoted her: “I was informed by the (Magsaysay) award committee that I am being considered. I am a political leader. This award is normally never given to political leaders.

“I am a central committee member of CPI(M). I discussed it with my party leaders and we collectively took a call not to accept it. It is a big award but it’s an NGO and they usually don’t support the principles of communists.”

Established in 1957 after the death in a plane crash of the popular president, the Ramon Magsaysay Award celebrates his memory and leadership example. It is given every year to individuals and organizations in Asia for their selfless service to society in various fields.

This year, Dr. Bernadette Madrid, head of UP-PGH’s child protection unit, was among the four recipients of the 64th Awards on Aug. 31. The others were: Sotheara Chhim, a Cambodian psychiatrist treating victims of the Khmer Rouge; Tadashi Hattori, a Japanese ophthalmologist who provides free eye surgery and trains other doctors to bring medical services to Vietnam’s remote villages; and Gary Bencheghib, a French environmentalist who is cleaning Indonesian waterways.

Kerala is one of the 28 states of India. Its 34.63 million people comprise 2.8 percent of the country’s population spread over 1.2 percent of its land area, yet contribute more than 4 percent of its gross domestic product.

We find it unfortunate that K. K. Shailaja, fondly called “Shailaja Teacher” in her state, declined the well-deserved nomination after her political beliefs and the internal dynamics of her party led to their collective rejection of the award.

The nomination of K. K. Shailaja shows that the search for deserving recipients of the annual Magsaysay Awards goes beyond ideology. We saw there an opening for those truly desirous to serve better the masses who, as the late president said, have “less in life”.

 US wants more Filipino nurses

After reading the familiar stories of overworked and underpaid Filipino nurses flying out in droves in search of better working conditions, we came across another report about a health care system in Florida looking for nurses and related personnel.

Such announcements of recruitment of foreign nurses have become so common but we were still intrigued that would-be employers in this story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune specified wanting nurses from the Philippines.

In a story by Earle Kimel, the paper reported Tuesday that the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System will bring about 50 nurses and at least six medical technicians from the Philippines until early 2023.

Similar stories have come out elsewhere in the US addressing a nationwide shortage of qualified nurses and other healthcare workers.

Sarasota Memorial, which has more than 8,500 workers, hired 2,349 new staff in 2021. Of those, about 70 percent were nurses or clinical personnel, with 30 percent hospitality or frontline support staff.

About 1,000 new staff members were hired for the SMH Venice campus and the oncology tower for the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute.

SMH spokeswoman Kim Savage said that in addition to immigration paperwork for visas for essential health care workers, nurses must also secure a license to practice in Florida, and a Social Security number to get paid.

“We do go through the process to demonstrate that we pay them the prevailing market rate and we go beyond that and support them with programs to help them acclimate to Florida,” Savage said.

(A reader going by the name Bato sa Langit said in reaction – “Welcome to the USA. Enjoy Florida weather, speak English, don’t overwork, don’t compute your dollars to pesos, your gross means nothing after deductions, stay safe, never walk alone, help each other, don’t try to keep up with the Jones (means don’t spend more than you earn). Blend not clash cultures. Be yourself, keep your eyes open and most times mouth shut. Been in US for 55 years, no legal trouble, just obey and keep clean. Pray for the best, good luck!”)

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Kimel reported that Sarasota Memorial brought in this summer a couple of registered nurses and six medical technicians from the Philippines.

There are other sources but SMH officials have decided to first reach out to those from the Philippines for several reasons. For one, eligible Filipinos have bachelor’s degrees and fluency in English.

Jackie Gould, clinical manager of the orthopedic surgical unit in SMH-Venice, is one of the Filipinos on a committee collecting supplies and researching housing options for those arriving this year from the home country.

Classes in the Philippines – from elementary school through the university – are in English, noted Gould. She herself is a 1995 graduate of the University of the City of Manilla. She emigrated to the US in 1998.

She is with a committee helping ease the transition of their kababayan. She said nurses often arrive with just two suitcases of possessions and will need basics to start.

Registered nurses make between $450 and $550 a month in the Philippines, while the minimum wage for a newly graduated RN at Sarasota Memorial is $27.09 an hour. It could be more, depending on experience, specialty certifications, and shift differentials.

The starting salary of $56,347.20 is slightly above the prevailing wage for newly graduated RNs, she added. Sarasota Memorial offers to cover travel expenses for foreign nurses.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 15, 2022)

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