THE hospital workforce is stretched thin, with the usual doctors, nurses and medical attendants doing their shifts hampered by various challenges: Lack of even basic personal protection equipment, lack of rest and sleep, even lack of time to eat.
And so the Department of Health (DOH) called for trained and semi-trained health workers to volunteer to serve in the government’s designated hospitals or referral centers for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19.
To their surprise, a total of 420 health workers signed up on the first day. The current number of volunteers is 700.
The COVID-19 referral centers where the volunteers will be deployed are the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City, and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.
Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the call for volunteers was made to ensure that the government will have a deep bench of healthcare workforce that can be relied upon and be deployed in case of a runaway surge of COVID-19 patients.
The exigencies of the pandemic have prodded our health officials to undertake a practical working policy called “two weeks on, two weeks off” which will be implemented among volunteer healthcare workers. For every two-week duty, the healthcare workers will have to undergo a two-week quarantine period.
The DOH admits that they can pay only P500 daily allowance to these volunteers, an admission that opens the department to scathing criticisms from lawmakers like Rep. Edcel Lagman of the opposition, and the ever-noisy netizens. It was explained that the amount — admitted measly — was based on the rate the DOH provided to healthcare workers during the previous outbreaks, but Vergeire added that they hope to increase this with the coming supplemental budget of the department which is primarily for the fight against COVID-19.
Aside from physically taking care of the sick and taking care, too, that they do not contract the virus themselves, the DOH personnel are also working in their offices to balance the budget, decide on which expense items to prioritize, such as compensation, procurement of supplies such as PPE, gloves, face masks and goggles, refurbishing the health facilities, and medicine purchases.
Senators, congressmen and other critics should have a better picture of what the DOH does in this time of national health emergency, before they even open their mouths or type their press statements.