Audio recording bares nurses fired over Facebook ‘like’ on critical status update
MANILA, Philippines – In July 2012, a nurse at the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital “liked” a Facebook post of a doctor in the same hospital voicing her concerns about management. A month later, the nurse, along with several other employees who “liked” the post, were fired and their certificates of employment withheld.
The nurse, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said in an interview Tuesday night that she and 10 other nurses were given their termination papers, dated August 13, 2012, that stated simply, “We regret to inform you that after careful deliberation, we have decided to terminate your services effective August 16, 2012.”
The nurse and her colleagues went around trying to find out what were the grounds for their immediate termination. They talked with the Hospital Medical Director, Roberto Abat, who told them they were being fired because they “liked” the Facebook post that criticized him.
Ground for termination
The nurse managed to record their conversation with Abat where he denied he was behind their termination, but he only knew it was because of Facebook.
“Number one, I’m not aware of this, I was only told that there will be some who will be issued termination letters,” Abat told the nurses in the recorded conversation provided to INQUIRER.net.
“Number two, as far as I know, the basis of this is Facebook. Personally, I don’t get involved in Facebook but I hear news about it, and I know city hall knows about it, and the mayor knows it,” he went on.
Abat further said that all he knows was that he was the one being criticized in the post, but he doesn’t know why the mayor had gone so far as to terminate them without warnings or without asking them to explain.
“Facebook is the issue, they’re the ones who know your degree of participation in Facebook,” Abat said when the nurses pressed him to identify the grounds for termination. He said it would fall under the grounds of “attitude.”
He also explained that since they were under a contract of service and there was no employee-employer relationship, they could be terminated anytime by the mayor.
Abat suggested that they wrote a letter of appeal addressed to the mayor explaining the extent of their participation, their motives behind “liking” the post, and their admission that they made a mistake in “liking” the post.
The nurse wrote to Taguig Mayor Laarni Cayetano a two page appeal letter on August 16 but they were not acted upon, she said.
Mayor Cayetano had issued statements denying they were terminated because of the Facebook issue. She said they had failed to comply with hospital protocols and that they were incompetent.
The nurse showed a copy of her performance evaluation form showing she had attained a grade of “very satisfactory.” She said they were just making up reasons to justify the termination.
The Facebook post was from Doctor Jocelyn Imbao, a volunteer Ob-Gyn in the hospital. She made a Facebook post on July 13 voicing out her concerns about the hospital administration’s decision to purchase a CT Scan Machine.
“CT scan? huh? I hope it’s for free. Nobody might be able to afford. Besides, how many patients will use it? Is it in demand? What about oxygen, is there a continuous supply? Are there Bili lights? Even for a simple droplight, are there light bulbs?” Imbao said in her post.
“Did you even think what the electricity consumption of a CT Scan is? Did you know that before you operate the CT Scan, you have to start it for a long time? And once on, you can’t turn it off and on and off when not in use?” she said.
In a telephone interview, Imbao said that she was voicing out her concerns regarding the CT Scan because she thinks it was not a priority for the hospital. She said other basic needs were not being taken care of. She said they sometimes had to tell patients to buy their own medicines outside at a pharmacy before they can be treated.
Even before the July 13 post, she had made earlier posts expressing her disappointment about how “the hospital’s heads do not understand each other and each have their own followers.”
“The hospital services [suffer]. Much more the dignity of all the staff, nurses, doctors and everyone else who works at the hospital,” she said in a post dated June 8.
She pointed out that because of the “weak leader” the followers also become weak and their output will also become weak due to the “unclear direction” from the leader.
She lamented the wasted time “because the change for the better is so slow. Except for a nice-looking facade of the Emergency Room. That is all.”
Imbao said in the interview that five other volunteer doctors were barred from doing clinical practice in the hospital. She said their names were listed in a memo from Director Abat and were posted all over the hospital “like we were criminals.”
She stressed that she has nothing against the mayor and was not even slightly interested in politics. Imbao stressed that her primary concern was really just in the welfare of the hospital.
Certificates of employment
The nurse said that they have gone to several agencies including the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Health, Civil Service Commission, seeking assistance with their Certificates of Employment which the mayor’s office was refusing to release.
In a letter to the Francisco Duque dated September 10, the nurses asked for assistance in mediating for the release of their certificates of employment.
It cited that their requests were being denied by the Taguig City Hall Human Resources Department on Director Abat’s orders.
The nurse stated that she has been unable to apply to work abroad because of the lack of her certificate. The other nurses that have been terminated had applied at call centers so they could still have income for the meantime.
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