Duterte wants health professionals to remain in the country
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants Filipino health care workers to stay put while the world grapples with the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.
In a televised address on Monday night, the President said he did not want Filipino doctors and nurses under threat of dying in other countries plagued with COVID-19.
He said he would consult “maybe two days from now” with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, “whether or not it would be legal for us to just stop the migration of health workers simply because they are being taken in a place where there is so much [illness].”
He added: “What pains me is that now other countries need desperately the help of [health-care] manpower [from elsewhere]. In a jiffy [Filipino health-care workers] are given the necessary travel documents, to our disadvantage, really.”
Duterte made the remarks after the Department of Health reported that 1,694 health-care workers in 11 facilities in the country had tested positive for COVID-19.
Last month, health-care workers were temporarily barred from leaving for overseas employment in line with the government’s efforts to ensure steady manpower for the healthcare sector. But those with existing employment contracts were eventually allowed to fly out.
The President himself warned then that the country might face a shortage of healthcare professionals if they continued to leave for greener pastures.
More valid reason
He even blamed the United States for easing its visa requirements in order to make it easier for Filipino nurses to seek employment with American hospitals.
On Monday, however, Duterte noted that this time, there was “a more valid reason to stop a doctor or a nurse” from leaving.
“Please don’t misunderstand me,” he said. “I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my only argument, if you may, because you are Filipinos and I love the lives of my countrymen,”
Malacañang said last weekend that with the growing number of medical frontliners stricken by COVID-19, the government was doing its best to beef up the healthcare sector.
One of the measures is the approval of the limited practice of medical school students as well as still unlicensed graduates.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases said the recruitment of medical school graduates would be a “last resort” for the country, which is in a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19.
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