The lack of nurses on island has been a recurring issue compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. But Guam’s neighbor, the Philippines, may offer a solution to the island’s workforce needs.
This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the restrictions that prevent Filipino healthcare workers from seeking employment out of the country. Duterte enforced the restrictions so nurses and other medical professionals would be forced to stay in the Philippines and help with the COVID-19 pandemic there.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are more than 100,000 nurses in the Philippines and this could be an untapped resource for Guam.
Greg Massey, administrator of GDOL’s Alien Labor Processing and Certification Division (ALPCD), said the recruitment of nurses from the Philippines is possible since there is a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act that grants exemptions for hiring H2 or contract nurses.
It’s never really cut and dry, according to Massey, and there may be other considerations that are factored into the hiring process such as the NCLEX requirement for nursing applicants.
Massey spoke with K57’s Tony Lamorena this week about this potential solution. He said that the exemption applies not only to nurses but other healthcare professionals.
“That was the push was to the NDAA a couple of years ago…acknowledging not just the shortage of nurses but of other allied healthcare workers — all allied healthcare workers…all the way from your dental assistant to your critical care nurses. We cannot bring in doctors, unfortunately. But short of doctors, every allied healthcare workers are available,” Massey said.
Since the NDAA provision lapses in 2023, the contract nurses can actually stay on Guam for three years. However, there is a caveat. According to Massey, the hirings should be associated with the military relocation.
“The H2’s for Guam…U.S. Immigration has determined that if they are for military-associated projects, then it is for the national interest,” Massey said.
According to Massey, there is also the requirement to test the U.S. market first and if a qualified U.S.-based worker applies for the nursing and healthcare job first, then they would be given priority over other applicants.
He also clarified that Guam was never really restricted by USCIS from bringing in H2 construction or contract workers from the Philippines. He said the process is just a little bit harder.