By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The House of Representatives’ Health Cluster of the Defeat COVID-19 Committee (DCC) has recommended the creation of a reserve medical corps which may include retired licensed physicians and graduates of medical course to address the depleting number of doctors, nurses, and health workers in the country.
In a draft report to its mother committee, the DCC Health subcommittee, chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina “Helen” Tan and Deputy Minority Leader and Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin, cited the need to create a medical corps to “arrest the depletion” of the country’s medical workers.
“Additional doctors and health workers are needed to reinforce the so-called second wave of frontliners in order to give our doctors, nurses, and other allied health professionals in the frontlines some period of rest and to prepare for the protracted fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, ” the DCC said in its draft report.
The Department of Health earlier reported that a total of 252 health workers, 152 of whom are doctors and 63 are nurses, have contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It also disclosed that 12 healthcare workers succumbed to COVID-19.
The Health Cluster said those who can be tapped are the following:
First line–all licensed physicians to include those who are retired and those no longer practicing in the hospital setting;
Second line–medical students who have completed their first four years of medical course, graduates of medicine, and registered nurses who may be issued by the Secretary of Health with a limited and special authorization to render medical services pursuant to Section 12 (D) of Republic Act No. 2382, the Medical Act;
Third line–All licensed allied health professionals.”
According to the Health Cluster’s draft report, all concerned health personnel “shall voluntarily consent to engagement and should be properly compensated”.
The Health Cluster noted that under Republic Act No. 11469, the “Bayanihan to Heal As One Act,” the President has the authority to engage temporary human resources for health.
It said the Department of Health (DOH) may coordinate and collaborate with the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) and its specialty societies for the engagement of private practitioners.
“The DOH should submit to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) the budget needed to compensate these health workers,” the Health sub-panel of the DCC said.
It cited the urgency to “activate and mobilize the National Health Workforce Support System to support local health systems pursuant to Republic Act No. 11223, the Universal Health Care Act.”
“The best epidemiologists, researchers, and members of the academe must be mobilized to help dissect the existing problem,” it said.
The Health Cluster is also seeking the creation of a “War Council Against COVID-19.”
The Council shall consist of former health secretaries, public health specialists, and heads of pulmonology and infectious disease societies in the country, it said.
The DCC sub-panel also batted for mass testing using the Rapid Testing-Polymerase Chain Reaction Test kits through pooled testing as a method to save the government from rapidly using its resources.
“The Sub-National Testing (SNL) centers must also be utilized by capacitating them to operate 24/7 with a target tests of 10,000 per day,” it added.
It asked the DOH “to expedite the accreditation of other SNLs and act promptly in procuring COVID-19 cartridges to allow GeneExpert machines nationwide to test for COVID-19 and make possible massive testing of PUIs (persons under investigation) and PUMs (persons under monitoring).”
The cluster said additional manpower should be deployed to collect specimen as well as transport vehicles to expedite the delivery of specimens to testing facilities.
It said the local government units can be tapped to assist the DOH in the transportation of specimens.
On Maundy Thursday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano disclosed that the four clusters of DCC submitted their reports Wednesday night.