Palau National Hospital Nurses Petition For Increased Salaries

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Sympathetic President Toribiong considering how to meet demands

By Aurea Gerundio-Dizon

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, May 14, 2012) – In line with the observance of Nurses Day in Palau, the nurses at the Belau National Hospital (BNH) walked out to the summerhouse at the back of the hospital on Friday morning to hold peaceful assembly.

It was the way of the nurses to convey their petition to the national government. Of the 107 nurses at the BNH, 87 signed the petition, eight did not sign while 12 were either on leave or off island.

About six nurses remained in different posts at the hospital as the nurses did not want to neglect patients while they were holding the assembly.

The nurses petitioned for implementation of pay scale and pay raise, implementation of the Bureau of Nursing as an official entity under the Ministry of Health, establishment of a specific Nursing budget line item in the ministry’s budget call and implementation of effective Human Resource support in nursing recruitment and workforce retention.

"We, as collective nurses in Palau make up 25 percent of the current workforce in the Ministry of Health. We have our vision and mission statements as our foundation to render nursing care and services everyday. The advancement of the Palau nursing profession depends on these priorities to be moved to actions to succeed our vision and mission statements," the petitioners said.

Following the nurses’ walkout, President Toribiong, Health Minister Stevenson Kuartei and members of the Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK), including Senate Vice President Kathy Kesolei, Sen. Regina Mesebeluu (as chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Education) and House Speaker Noah Idechong met with the nurses to talk about their petition.

Chief Nurse Joaquina Ulenghong told the local leaders that the nurses are not asking for anything so fancy.

They do not expect, as well, that answers to their petition will immediately be granted, but they want to be assured that actions will be taken.

President Toribiong told the nurses that the government will work on their request.

Pending pay raise, Toribiong called on the OEK to approve his proposed $20 cost of living allowance for government employees earning less than $25,000 per year.

"None of the nurses are making more than $25,000 per year. It could be a temporary relief if they receive cost of living adjustments (COLA)," the president said.

It has been discussed also during the talk that the ministry’s Human Resource Department will re-do nursing pay scale classification draft by May 31, with $12,000 as minimum entry salary.

Toribiong said the government will look into amending the sick leave and annual leave policy, to give the employees the option to cash in unused leave. He is also considering giving differential pay as an incentive.

The president further considered the establishment of Bureau of Nursing, to elevate the Nursing Office to a bureau level.

It has been discussed that by July 30 this year, the Nursing Office and Ministry of Health’s Finance Office will be able to submit a complete nursing budget to the minister.

After the meeting with local officials led by the president, the nurses went back to their respective posts.

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