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Visa Fears Mean Filipino Nurses ‘Feel Unable to Say No’ During Crisis - News - Nursesarena Forum

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Visa Fears Mean Filipino Nurses ‘Feel Unable to Say No’ During Crisis by katty : May 25, 2020, 03:55:59 PM
Filipino nurses working in the UK fear repercussions for their visa status if they refuse any work during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a leading nurse campaigner.

Francis Fernando, officer of the Filipino Nurses UK Association, has been among the key voices raising concerns about the impact of the crisis on migrant nurses from the Philippines.

Emerging evidence points to an overrepresentation of black and minority ethnic (BME) health and care workers among Covid-19 fatalities.

Mr Fernando, a former nurse consultant and matron who has temporarily stepped back from practice, is aware of at least 44 deaths among Filipino colleagues.

“I am very sad for my comrades and their families as we continue to have high numbers of Filipino deaths due to Covid-19, often in the NHS and social care,” Mr Fernando told Nursing Times.

“We are disheartened, and the group feels this because we are perceived to just get on with it, and because we are voiceless at the moment.

“Myself and my colleagues have tried to raise some awareness and asked for the government to act now rather than later.”

This call for action is inclusive of all BME NHS colleagues to prevent having any more “devastated families”.

As well as being active on social media, Mr Fernando has written to chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, voicing the concerns of Filipino nurses.

He said: “We know now they are at higher risk when contracting the virus than their white counterparts."

Mr Fernando added that approximately 80% of the Filipino staff who have died should have been shielded, but they were still working.

The UK has one of the highest levels of foreign-born nurses in the EU, with an estimated 40,000 Filipino staff employed in the NHS.

Mr Fernando explained: “Filipino nurses have always worked on the frontline. We are always exposed to risks and there’s no difference with the Covid-19.

“Some of my colleagues, actually most of us, are doing extra work. If we are asked by our managers to cover shifts rather than [them] going to agency, we feel obliged to do it.

“We feel, not coerced, but obliged to do it because we ‘owe’ our employers for being here, because obviously some of those who died were still on the Tier 2 [general work] visa."

He said this feeling of responsibility leaves Filipino workers “overexposed” and “stressed”, compromising their physical and mental health.

He said: “There is also the culture of Filipinos, that we are not able to say ‘no’ and we don’t assert our rights to say that there’s a problem if we are being put in harm’s way.

“They don’t say something about it…because they think it will affect their visa sponsorship.”

However, Mr Fernando said there was “hope” ahead for the community and work to improve the situation is already being carried out.

As previously reported by Nursing Times, a free and confidential helpline has been set up for Filipino workers and their families and a government inquiry is currently underway into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BME communities.

The life assurance scheme from the government will pay £60,000 to families who have lost a relative to Covid-19 who was working for the NHS or social care during the outbreak.

While Mr Fernando welcomes the scheme, it is “little consolation for the huge loss in their lives”.

A campaign has been set up to raise money for the families affected.

The new Filipino support service is available by phone seven days a week between 7am and 11pm on 0300 303 1115 or 24 hours via text by texting Frontline to 85258.


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