Bill seeks mobilization of non-practicing but qualified medical workers during nat’l public health emergencies

Published August 8, 2020, 5:47 PM

by Ben Rosario

Graduates of medical and nursing schools who are not yet board passers will be tapped during national public health emergencies under a bill listed in the priority measures of the House of Representatives.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said on Saturday that the chamber will soon tackle bills proposing to institutionalize the mobilizing of non-practicing but qualified medical workers to help fill the required personnel to address national emergencies.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Bills filed by Reps. David Suarez (PDP-Laban, Quezon) and Alfred Vargas (PDP-Laban, Quezon City) are among the legislative measures included in the list of priorities of the Lower House.

Cayetano said national emergencies are “all hands on deck” situations that require immediate deployment of available manpower to ensure faster and more effective delivery of service to victims.

 “We have so many capable kababayans from the medical community who are willing to help and are just waiting to be tapped. All we need to do is to institutionally allow them to do so,” he said.

Under the current COVID 19 situation prevailing in the country, government and medical experts noted a rise in the demand for additional medical frontlliners for assignment in hospitals facing personnel shortage.

Cayetano said  that Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Jose Santiago has noted that doctor-population ratio in the country is at a very low 1:1,300 as compared to the 1:800 ideal ratio that the World Health Organization endorsed.

The House leader  also cited the fact that 16 to 19 percent of Filipino doctors and nurses have left the country as reported by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in 2012, which he attributed to the long-neglected low salary of medical professionals in the government.

“Thankfully, the overdue salary increase that we have pursued in Congress has finally been received by our entry-level government nurses,” said Cayetano.

Suarez filed House Bill 6821 proposing the establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) composed of persons with degrees in the fields of medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields but have yet to secure licenses to practice.  

The MRC may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government in addressing the medical needs of the country during times of public health emergencies.

In HB 7157, Vargas said the MRC can be mobilized by the Secretary of Health in coordination with the secretaries of Department of National Defense, the Department of Education and the Department of Interior and Local Government.

“With the COVID 19 situation continuing to persist in areas in the country, our medical professionals are challenged to increase human resources while still maintaining competence in delivering public health services,” said Vargas.

He added: “This bill seeks to promote the role of medical and health related personnel in nation-building and to encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”

Suarez cited the World Health Organization definition of public health emergency as a an occurrence “or imminent threat of an illness and health condition, caused by bio-terrorism, epidemic or pandemic disease or novel and highly fatal infectious agent or biological toxin that poses a substantial risk of a significant number of human facilities or incidents or permanent or long term disability.”