What awaits medical volunteers in DOH drive vs coronavirus
For risking their lives at the front lines, doctors and nurses who will volunteer to help government stop the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be paid P500 per day.
On Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) launched its online portal (www.dohvolunteerportal.org) where doctors, nurses and nurse assistants could sign up to volunteer for deployment to the three hospitals tasked with handling COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila—the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City.
On the website, the DOH appeals to those with medical and nonmedical training “to stand on the front lines” against the pandemic.
“Our country needs your help to face this war against COVID-19. We hope that you will join us in this fight,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday.
The DOH reported 803 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 54 patients who have died and 31 who have recovered as of Friday.
The volunteers are expected to work for 14 consecutive days in eight-hour shifts. They will be given free meals and accommodation and personal protective equipment “to help reduce risks of exposure.”
After 14 days, the volunteers will remain at the hospital where they were assigned for another 14 days of quarantine.
“After this great contribution to your country, you may return home to your family,” the DOH said.
Less than minimum wage
For their “great contribution,” they will be paid less than the P537 daily minimum pay for workers in the National Capital Region, a paltry amount that labor and health groups slammed as “exploitative and devalues the worth” of health workers who are already risking their lives to treat those infected by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the severe acute respiratory disease.
The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) stressed that the amount the DOH was willing to give volunteer health workers was “unjust, inconsiderate and exploitative” given that under the law nurses are to be paid P32,000 monthly.
It added that the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers mandated a hazard pay equivalent to 25 percent of their basic pay.
“FNU demands massive hiring of nurses not volunteers because the volunteer nurses scheme is exploiting our nurses as professionals and persons with dignity. A public health emergency could be an impending public health disaster if the lives of our nurses, doctors and other health workers are not valued,” FNU president Maristela Abenojar said.
The Federation of Free Workers (FFW) agreed that the amount the DOH was willing to shell out “does not reflect the true value of the work that health workers do.”
Hire 42K health workers
“It is, however, reflective of how minimal is the value that the government gives to health workers and health services,” FFW vice president Julius Cainglet said.
Abenojar had recommended the mass hiring of at least 42,000 health workers given that the “severe understaffing” in health facilities is being aggravated by the need for some front-liners to go on quarantine.
Such a program would cost P5.5 billion over three months, an amount which she said that the government can shoulder.
A DOH report in 2018 said the country had 3,131 government physicians and 5,975 public health nurses. It said the ideal ratio of physician to population is 1: 20,000 and 1: 20,000 for government nurses. But the actual ratio of physician to population was 1: 33,909 and 1: 17,769 for a government nurse, indicating a shortage of doctors.
The World Health Organization had recommended that the country should have a ratio of 45 health workers for every 10,000 persons. The Philippines currently only has 19 per 10,000, it said.
Vergeire earlier said that due to hiring limitations, the DOH could not recruit more health workers, hence the call for volunteers.
She said volunteers would be covered by the benefits under the newly signed Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. The law provides that health workers who would contract the virus would be given P100,000. In case of death, their families are entitled to receive P1 million.
TUCP for P3K a day
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said that given the “very dangerous job and critical responsibilities” of the health workers, they should at least be given P3,000 daily.
“This should be sourced from the three months salary of congressmen and senators who aren’t doing anything,” TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.
Akbayan Youth chair RJ Naguit pointed out that since Congress allowed the Duterte administration to realign P275 billion to respond to the outbreak, the DOH could then set aside more funds for its front-liners.
“We can’t send our heroes to battle without support. Our doctors, nurses and other health workers are risking their lives to keep our families safe. It’s a huge disservice if doctors only get P500 per day when the President has billions that could cover their compensation,” Naguit said.
“Nine out of 38 deaths due to COVID-19 are health workers in the line of battle. Aside from the hazard pay and compensation for illnesses and deaths, the DOH should fully compensate health workers in COVID-19 centers,” he added. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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