(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines needs to plug a shortage of 190,000 healthcare workers, Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said, prompting the government to consider a clutch of benefits to make them stay.

The Southeast Asian nation is the world’s top supplier of nurses. Thousands of health workers leave the Philippines annually for work abroad, lured by higher pay and prospects of a better life. 

For doctors alone, the country needs to triple the number, as the current ratio of one physician for every 25,000 people is far from the ideal ratio of one for every 10,000, the health chief said.

Yet, despite the need “to actually fill in the gaps of our healthcare system,” the government doesn’t plan to limit the number of workers going overseas and would instead aim to produce more, Herbosa said in a briefing Wednesday after meeting President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“If you have a good product like a nice car or a nice TV that is being exported and is in demand, would you stop its production? No. I will just increase and that’s the direction we’re going,” Herbosa said.

The salary of government nurses in the Philippines starts at 40,000-50,000 pesos ($689-$861) a month, while private hospitals typically offer half of that, the health secretary said. This pay discrepancy has led to two layers of migration — workers in private hospitals are transferring to government institutions, while those in state hospitals are leaving for overseas, he said.

About three fourths of health workers that leave the country are nurses, Herbosa said. To help stanch the exodus, it is allocating funds to provide them health insurance, housing and other benefits.

To address the gap, the government is also continuing a program that allows hospitals to hire nursing graduates who have yet to pass the board exam, he said.

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