Nurses applaud for long-awaited pay rise

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Issue 686, Page 1 & 2
Word count: 859
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The moral of public nursing staff has been greatly boosted as after 13 years the government finally decides to raise their salaries and create more promotion opportunities for them.

The long awaited bill to revise Health Bureau’s (SSM) nursing personnel vocation system was presented by Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Chui Sai On for the first reading at the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

A majority of the lawmakers welcomed the changes, and said that the nurses “deserve a better pay and more employee benefits because of their heavy workloads”.

According to the Kiang Wu Nursing College’s survey commissioned by the Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, it confirmed that Macau was short on human resources in the local nursing force.

As of December 2006, Macau still lacked 1,600 nurses. However from 2006 to 2008, only 160 recruits joined the force, but 54 nurses quitted during the same period.

Chui pointed out that in Macau every 1,000 residents were allocated 2.36 nurses, while in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore the ratios were respectively 1,000:5.03, 1,000:4.69, and 1,000:3.65.

The secretary admitted that the existing vocation system for public health nurses was “lagging behind”, and thus was difficult to attract quality recruits and ensure stability in the nursing force.

In order to make sure sustainable development of Macau’s medical and nursing industry, as well as to protect residents’ health and guarantee relevant professions a career prospect, the already dismissed advisory committee for health care reform suggested the setting up of a new vocation system for nursing staff.

Changes proposed

Among the amendments proposed in the bill, a new rank of “Senior Specialist Nurse” will be added to the current promotion structure, which starts from Grade One Nurse, Senior Nurse and Specialist Nurse, to the management level of Head Nurse and Nurse Supervisor.

The newly created rank is to provide more promotion opportunities for clinical nurses and also to enhance the local clinical care services in order to meet different demands from patients, Chui said.

However, at the same time the government plans to increase the entry requirement to a bachelor degree in nursing, due to the advancement of the profession and growing social demands for nursing services.

The secretary said at present more than 50 percent of the public nursing staff possessed a relevant bachelor degree, while the majority of the rest had completed advanced courses.

After the entry requirement is raised, nurses’ salaries will be increased by between 16.4 percent and 42.8 percent.

The entry level salary for Grade One Nurses will be 25,370 patacas based on the 430 salary points, and that for Nurse Supervisors, the highest position in the structure, will be jumped to maximum 42,480 patacas based on the 720 salary points after adjustment.

For nurses who do not possess a bachelor degree and cannot yet join the new vocation system, Chui said they will still benefit from a pay rise with an average of 4.1 percent.

The increase in salaries is estimated to cost the Health Bureau an additional 59 million patacas per year.

The SAR government also proposed to set the effective date of the salaries increase back to July 1, 2007.

On the other hand, the government-drafted bill is trying to change the shift allowance to night shift allowance, as Chui said the move will allow “those who work more to earn more”.

The night shift allowance will be set at one, 1.25 or two percent of the nurses’ salaries, depending on what particular period the night work is being allocated from 8pm to 8am.

However, the maximum amount of night shift allowance a nurse can get per month is 25 percent of his or her wage.

The revision in work allowance will increase the government expenditure by nearly 14.5 million patacas annually.

Meanwhile, the social affairs and culture secretary told the lawmakers that public nursing staff will be given the right to be exempted from work for 36 hours in order to receive training and relevant research activities.

For those who do not own a bachelor degree in nursing but have the relevant skills and work experience, the government proposed an assessment scheme made up of five criteria including the nurse’s basic and advanced training qualifications and the number of years having served in the profession.

If a nurse passes the assessment, he or she will be able to be transferred to the new vocation system.

Yet, for those who neither have a bachelor degree nor pass the assessment, Chui said they will be retained at the same position in the original vocation system, but can apply for the transfer once they obtain either of the above requirements.

According to the secretary, the bill was drafted after “a string of consultation, studying other regions’ experience as well as integrating Macau’s own characteristics and reality”.

By revising the vocation system, he said he hoped that patients’ nursing demands could be met and more favourable conditions could be created for nurses so as to attract new blood and retain nursing professionals in the force.

After the passage in the first reading yesterday, the bill will be taken to the standing committee level for a further deliberation.

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