By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang said the government has been implementing measures to make sure that the country will not suffer from a shortage of health workers as the number of medical frontliners becoming infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rises.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after the Department of Health (DOH) reported that 1,694 health workers from at least 11 facilities tested positive for COVID-19.
In an interview over state-run PTV-4 Saturday, Roque said the Palace is likewise concerned about more health workers contracting the disease.
“Kaya nga po ini-implement natin ang strict safety protocols para sa health workers natin, nang maagapan ang pagkalat ng sakit sa health workers,” he said.
(This is why we are implementing strict safety protocols for our health workers, so we can prevent them from getting infected.)
One of the measures that the government has undertaken was to approve the limited practice of medicine students yet to obtain their license, to augment the ranks of frontliners.
Roque said President Duterte told Cabinet members in a meeting that even fourth-year medicine students should be prepared in case their services are required to augment the healthcare workforce.
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases announced last month that the recruitment of medical graduates will be a “last resort” while the Philippines remains under a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19.
The DOH has already formulated interim guidelines on the matter.
Under Section 12 of The Medical Act, medicine graduates “may be given limited and special authorization by the Secretary of Health to render services during epidemics or national emergencies whenever the services of duly registered physicians are not available.”
President Duterte said in his weekly report submitted to Congress last April 13 that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has approved the request of the DOH to hire an additional 857 contract-of-service (COS) workers for the country’s fight against COVID-19.
The additional workers will be deployed to the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine General Hospital, and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center.
The government is set to hire the following:
82 Medical Officer III,
267 Nurse II,
35 Radiologic Technologist I,
85 Respiratory Therapist I,
118 Ward Assistant I,
30 Medical Equipment Technician I,
204 Nursing Attendant II, and
36 Administrative Aide IV (ambulance drivers).
The monthly cost for the additional workers will be around P35.823 million, chargeable against the available released allotment for the DOH under the 2020 budget.
According to the DOH, 638 nurses, 566 doctors, 104 nursing assistants, 66 medical technologists, 32 radiologic technologists, 18 respiratory therapists, 19 midwives, 14 pharmacists, and 237 other workers such as barangay health workers, administrative aides, and utility workers tested positive for COVID-19.