Recruits would like to bring their families as well
By Merituuli Ahola – In October last year, Philippine nurse and mother of four, Helen Donesa, 45, was watching television when she saw an interview with a Finnish man who said that he had come to the Philippines to recruit nurses for work in Finland. At that time Donesa certainly had no idea that in just six months she herself would be interviewed at a Finnish dementia treatment home.
“I am just an ordinary person, but here my picture has already been in a paper”, she says with amazement.
The Filipino nurses attract interest because they are the first group of foreign nurses to have been recruited from abroad to work in Finland.
Their aim is to open the way for possibly hundreds of other nurses, whom their employers, the Finnish health care company Esperi Care, plans to bring into Finland in the next two years.
A group of four men and four women arrived in Helsinki on Wednesday. The first couple of days the group has toured Finnish offices, getting Finnish social security numbers, bank accounts, and bus passes.
“Everything has gone quite smoothly and in a friendly manner”, says 26-year-old Urminico Baronda.
Their accommodation is also seen as excellent. The Philippine nurses have been accommodated in two apartments of about 70 square metres each. The men live in one, and the women live in the other.
“There is a washing machine and an electric stove. In the Philippines we wash our laundry by hand and we usually cook food on an open fire”, he says.
Baronda has come to Finland to care for old people and earn money.
“Here I can earn five or six times what I make in the Philippines”, he says.
In the Philippines, the monthly pay for a nurse is EUR 250. In Finland, the starting salary for a nurse is about EUR 1,600.
“This is an excellent opportunity to achieve a better life”, Baronda says.
At home in the Philippines, he has a wife and a one-year-old daughter. Baronda and the others plan to send most of his pay home each month.
Nurses are an export product for the Philippines. The state deliberately trains a surplus of them, and the country has an established market for recruitment of local nurses abroad.
Up to 10% of the Philippines’ GDP is from wages sent back home by citizens working abroad.
“My sister has worked as a nurse in Italy for 24 years already. My cousin is working in the United States”, Helen Donesa says.
She has had nursing jobs herself in Libya and Saudi Arabia.
“Working abroad is much more common in the Philippines than here with us”, says Esperi Care’s CEO Marja Aarnio-Isohanni.
She knows that not everyone takes a favourable view of the recruitment of nurses from abroad. One of the objections is that there would be plenty for foreign nurses to do in their own countries.
“Naturally, it would be wonderful if health care were to operate better there. However, that is beyond our control”, Aarnio-Isohanni says in her company’s defence.
The Filipino nurses appear very satisfied as they eat pea soup for lunch.
“Finland looks like a great country. There are few people here, and everyone is truly friendly. The air is clean, and there is no traffic here”, laughs Helen Donesa.
In Finland the nurses will be working around the Helsinki region. For the first six months they will work as assistants under an apprenticeship scheme, after which Esperi Care will offer them a two year contract.
“We hope that they would be in Finland to stay”, Aarnio-Isohanni says.
That is exactly what Helen Donesa and Urminico Baronda say that they want to do.
“It would be best if we could bring our families here. The sooner, the better.”
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