De Lima: Tap medical and nursing graduates, students to assist frontliners


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As the number of those infected by COVID-19 continues to spike, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima suggests that medical and nursing graduates and students be enlisted to assist healthcare professionals and reinforce undermanned medical facilities nationwide.

De Lima, who chairs the Senate Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, noted that some hospitals have reportedly refused to accept prospective coronavirus patients not only due to lack of spaces but also of medical workers and staff.

“The situation is getting worse. The number of available health workers to attend to the sick and dying COVID-19 patients, and the PUI and PUM cases, is dwindling as many medical frontliners have to undergo self-quarantine themselves, having been exposed to COVID-19 patients,” she said.

“[Let us] call on our nation’s second line of defense – conscript the graduates of medical schools and nursing schools who will rise to the occasion,” she added.

De Lima pointed out that the Health Secretary has the authority under Republic Act 2382 to empower the medical graduates and students to practice, in a limited capacity, their dream profession during epidemics or national emergencies.

When called upon to serve, De Lima continued, the government should guarantee that the medical and nursing graduates and students will be “equipped, compensated and safeguarded” as they risk their lives for the sake of others.

As of March 26, nine physicians have succumbed due to complications caused by COVID-19. Medical institutions also claim that they are understaffed because many of their healthcare workers have to be quarantined due to exposure to infected patients.

De Lima also stressed that there is an “urgent need to review the country’s medical workforce capabilities” and fill the vacancies in the Department of Health (DOH), especially thousands of positions designated for health workers. 

“I remind Secretary Duque that per the 2020 National Expenditure Program, there remains 13,058 unfilled positions under the DOH. That is on top of the 26,035 contractual positions for health workers which DBM has authorized to support the implementation of the Human Resource for Health Deployment Program (HRHDP) of the DOH,” she said.

“Please don’t give the applicants a run around anymore, give those positions to the qualified and competent to help save more lives. By utilizing this option which is already at the disposal of the DOH, our frontline will be manned and strengthened to hold the line until a vaccine or a cure is discovered,” she added.

The lady Senator from Bicol have been consistent in calling out the DOH to roll-out mass testing for COVID-19, especially after the health department claimed to have received hundreds of thousands of test kits from foreign donors.

Official figures of the World Health Organization show that COVID-19, believed to have originated in Wuhan, China has killed 20,834 people and infected 462,684 around the world, as of March 26.

To date, the Philippines has reported that 45 people have died due to COVID-19 and 707 others have been confirmed of being infected. (30)

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