P5.2 B for more healthcare workers, labs, hospital beds

Published April 24, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

e-cartoon-apr-25-2020With  or without  the continued lockdown – enhanced community quarantine – in Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon, Congress will resume its session on on Monday, May  4. Under the Constitution, it is  to meet  until  30 days before  the opening of the next regular session  on the fourth Monday of July.

Both  the  House of Representatives and  the Senate will  have to revise their seating arrangements   if they  are  to comply with the  call for  social distancing during the ongoing lockdown. That should be easy for the 24-member  Senate, but  more difficult  for the 304-member House.

Or the House may opt  to hold online sessions, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano  said. The last time the House  met  to approve  Republic Act 11469, the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, granting President Duterte special powers  to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic,  only a few members were actually present on the House floor, with most of them participating online.

Congress needs  to act on additional measures  needed by the executive  to  fight  COVID-19  in the country.  The Department of Health (DOH), in particular, needs  P5.2 billion to hire 17,757  healthcare workers. The DOH submitted the budget proposal  to the Departmen of Budge and Management last April  15.

Right now, 743 doctors, nurses, and other health workers are deployed in various hospitals, including the Dr.  Jose  N. Rodriguez Hospital and Sanitarium, the Lung Center  of  the Philippines, the Philippine General  Hospital, and the Research Institute  for Tropical  Medicine.  These are among the 693 government  and private hospitals which now have 8,714 beds for COVID-19 patients.

But additional testing and quarantine  facilities are needed  at six major international  airports in the country, and to equip  public health laboratories and isolation rooms in 70 DOH and 85 provincial hospitals, and  provide 450 isolation tents,  ambulances, personal  protective  equipment, test  kits,  diagnostic and life-support equipment.

In the ongoing effort against COVID-19, over 700 doctors, nurses, and other  healthcare workers  have already been infected. Their numbers will now be supplemented  by the 17,757 healthcare workers the  DOH now seeks to hire with the proposed  P5.2-billion budget bill which Congress is expected to act on when  it  resumes its sessions  on Monday, May 4.