Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged the Department of Health to tap and maximize Filipino healthcare professionals in the country amid the government-imposed deployment ban to ensure the availability of enough health human resources needed to combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Dapat lang na i-encourage ang ating medical workers na tumulong sa sarili nilang bayan. Lahat tayo bilang Pilipino, dapat gawin ang lahat para masagip at maprotektahan ang buhay ng ating kapwa Pilipino,” he said.
“Kaya naman nais nating masiguro na may sapat tayong healthcare professionals sa bansa upang labanan ang pagkalat ng COVID-19,” Go added.
That said, Go also emphasized that special considerations must be given to Filipino healthcare professionals with existing contracts abroad given that the COVID-19 is a worldwide concern and so that concerned medical workers can honor their commitments with their employers abroad.
“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa Inter-Agency Task Force sa kanilang pagkunsidera sa deployment ban at pagdinig sa sitwasyon ng iba nating mga health workers na may employment contracts sa ibang bansa,” Go said.
“Maganda naman po ang hangarin ng deployment ban ng POEA, ngunit naniniwala rin po tayo na hindi dapat kabilang dito ang mga health workers natin na may contractual obligations na sa ibang bansa bago pa man nag-umpisa ang public health emergency na dala ng COVID-19,” he said.
Early this month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Governing Board issued Resolution No. 09, series of 2020, which provides for the temporary suspension of the deployment of all healthcare workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID 19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries”.
“It is of paramount national interest to ensure that the country shall continue to have, sustain the supply, and prepare sufficient health personnel to meet any further contingencies, especially to replace, substitute or reinforce existing workforce currently employed, deployed or utilized locally,” the resolution stated.
The order was issued to ensure that the country has a sufficient number of health workers amid the COVID-19 situation.
Health professionals who are included in the ban are medical doctors/physicians, nurses, microbiologists, medical biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, X-ray/radiologic technicians, nursing assistants/aides, operators of medical equipment, supervisors of health services and personal care and repairmen of medical-hospital equipment.
On April 13, IATF passed its own resolution providing exceptions to POEA’s Resolution No. 09. The IATF resolution states that the temporary suspension of deployment of health workers does not apply to those with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8, 2020. It must be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines on March 8, 2020.
These healthcare workers are also required to execute a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved as advised by the Philippine government.
Subject to the evaluation of the Department of Budget and Management, the IATF resolution also provides that DOH is “directed to facilitate the emergency hiring of additional healthcare workers to assist in the local healthcare system.”
Go expressed his gratitude to all Filipino health workers for their hard work and sacrifice to help the country overcome the COVID-19 crisis.
“Tulungan muna natin ang sarili nating mga kababayan upang malampasan ito. Salamat sa inyong sakripisyo, kayo ang bayani sa giyerang ito,” he said.
Go has also appealed to the government to continue to support and protect health workers serving as frontliners in the country’s fight against COVID-19 by providing sufficient compensation, equipment and facilities to do their jobs.
“Pero sa bawat medical worker na sasabak sa giyera laban sa COVID-19, dapat lang bigyan sila ng gobyerno ng karampatang proteksyon at sandatang panlaban. Let us use the funds available to give them proper compensation and provide them with the tools, facilities and protection they need to resolve this health crisis,” he added.
Go also earlier called on the DOH and the DBM to provide proper compensation for health workers who volunteer to help respond to the COVID-19 health crisis. The Senator cited that by considering them as job orders or contract of service workers, they will be provided compensation almost equivalent to full-time nurses and doctors and they will also be qualified to receive hazard pay and special risk allowance, among others.