Amid the reported decrease in Covid-19 infections nationwide, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is once again eyeing to raise the slots on the deployment cap of health-care workers (HCW) overseas.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III made the announcement after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) temporarily “suspended” the deployment of additional nurses, nursing aides and nursing assistants last month when the existing 6,500 slots for the 2021 cap was finally exhausted.

At a virtual news briefing on Monday, the labor chief said he would be consulting the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Department of Health (DOH) to study the feasibility of raising the deployment cap.

“If they say it [increase] is okay, we will add another 1,500. But until that is decided, we will not be deploying any [HCWs] except balik manggagawa [returning overseas Filipino workers] and those bound for the United Kingdom,” Bello said.

Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique R. Tutay noted that the Mission Critical Skills Technical Working Group (MCS-TWG) would also review its position on the matter in its next meeting.

“The recent pronouncement of POEA that the cap has been reached and that of the Secretary, then we will convene the TWG na maybe this week, if not next week,” Tutay told the BusinessMirror in a Viber message on Monday.

“We will consider the increase/decline of Covid cases and the available supply of health-care workers,” she added.

To note, the government recently observed a decline in Covid cases and health-care utilization in Metro Manila and other parts of the country prompting it to lower movement and business restrictions in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Last August, the MCS-TWG recommended against any increase in the deployment cap this year due to the “perceived” shortage of HCWs amid the local surge in Covid-19 infections.

“At that time, we have not acted on the request in the affirmative [of increasing the cap] as it is the height of the Delta variant and there were more than a thousand slots [in local health-care facilities] that have not been filled up,” Tutay explained.

POEA imposed the 5,000 deployment cap for HCWs last January to ensure the country would still have a sufficient pool of workers for its Covid-19 response.

It was later raised to 6,500 by POEA.

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