Group appeals to gov’t: Hire more health workers or our system collapses
MANILA, Philippines – The government should hire more health workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic or face a collapse of the public healthcare system, a group warned on Thursday, National Health Workers’ Day.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) explained that the country runs the risk of a public health collapse as a lot of health workers have been infected with the latest coronavirus strain, while those not infected have been forced to work long shifts and under strenuous conditions during the summer season.
AHW claims that the issue could be solved by hiring more health workers, especially since an item in the 2020 General Appropriations Act provides for the salaries of 13,068 vacant positions in the public health sector.
“The DOH should regularize the contract-of-service health workers that they have hired and hire more additional plantilla health workers. In addition, most of health care workers receive salaries that far below minimum wage and aside from not having adequate protective gear, they are overworked and underpaid,” AHW said in a statement.
“If more COVID-19 patients will be hospitalized, the hospitals and health workers cannot cope anymore. Health workers are now infected and need to be isolated and treated. Currently, there are shortage of health workers handling COVID19 patients,” AHW president Robert Mendoza added.
Last April 27, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved the hiring of additional 15,700 healthcare workers, but they would be hired on a contract-of-service basis for a period of three months.
The DBM said that they have allotted a P2.7-billion budget for it, which will be charged against the Department of Health (DOH) funds in the 2020 budget.
Meanwhile, more health workers in direct contact with coronavirus patients get infected. Latest numbers from DOH on Wednesday placed the number of infected workers at 1,859 — a staggering 18.58 percent or nearly one of five of the total COVID-19 cases that day, which was at 10,004.
This is also a monumental increase since nearly a month ago when the DOH released data on infected health workers, as only 252 health workers had the disease last April 8, marking a nearly three-fold increase in less than a month.
Health workers blame the lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs). According to the World Health Organization, the country has the highest health worker-infection rate in the region, compared to the 2 to 3 percent in the rest of Western Pacific countries which includes China, the virus’s origin.
AHW believes these problems — like relying on private sector donors for PPE and testing kits — would have not existed if only government refrained from cutting the health sector’s budget.
“The lack of health budget has shown the continuous increase in number of infected people including the high rate of infection among health workers. The main problem is lack of budget to buy for personal protective equipment (PPE), free mandatory mass testing and additional regular health workers,” AHW said.
“Today, Health Workers’ Day, we call on the government to look into the plight of our fellow health workers and the public hospitals. We reiterate our demand to increase the public health system budget to at least 5% of the GDP as WHO recommends,” Mendoza added.
As of Thursday, DOH said there are 10,343 patients infected across the country, with 685 of them dead and 1,618 have recovered. Worldwide, over 3.76 million individuals are confirmed to have COVID-19, while at least 263,932 have died from the disease and over 1.24 million have recovered from it.
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