Health workers tell Duque: Just resign, it’s been 5 months without a plan

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. INQUIRER file photo / MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is facing yet another clamor for him to step down, this time from a group of health workers who blamed him for lack of a concrete plan resulting in high coronavirus infection rates in the country.

The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said on Friday that Duque should be held accountable for the mess, as the country registers over 34,000 COVID-19 cases — just 6,000 cases shy of the University of the Philippines’ 40,000 cases prediction for June, with still four days to go.

“As we bravely fight the virulent disease, let us not allow the government authorities especially the DOH to abandon their primordial duty to ensure health workers’ safety and well-being,” AHW national president Robert Mendoza said in a statement posted on their Facebook page.

“We demand Secretary Duque’s resignation and hold him accountable for his neglect, incompetence, shortcomings and failure in dealing with (the) health crisis especially in COVID-19 response.” he added.

According to Mendoza, President Rodrigo Duterte and Duque have yet to formulate a concrete plan to fight or just mitigate the effects of the health crisis.

“We have been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly 5 months now, but the DOH and Duterte administration still have no clear and comprehensive plans on how to combat the deadly virus and the health workers’ situation are getting worse,” he explained.

The AHW has called the attention on several issues that the DOH is facing, from the lack of mass testing and personal protective equipment for frontliners, the heavy shifts that have taken a toll on hospital staffers, and the failure to protect those in the medical practice as the Philippines has one of the highest infection rates among health workers.

Early this June, the group also asked Duque to take care of nurses as reports surfaced about six nurses planning to leave their jobs in a Davao City hospital, due to problematic conditions.

Mendoza said that he wrote a letter to DOH to raise these issues, but it was unfortunately disregarded.

As of June 22, there are 3,122 health workers who have contracted COVID-19, 33 of which have died while 2,235 have recovered.

Despite the large number of recoveries, the 3,122 comprises 10 percent of the total number of COVID-19 cases that day, which was then at 30,682.

While the percentage has decreased, this is still far from the World Health Organization’s recorded average infection rates among health workers in the Asia Pacific region, which was at just two percent.

The AHW believes that health workers should be looked after because without them, the country’s health system may collapse, as they have previously said.

“Health workers are demoralized; despite the hardships and sacrifices of health workers, from low wages and no job security, DOH and the government authorities were able to deceive, divide and insult them through the grant of COVID-19 Hazard Pay and Special Risk Allowance,” the AHW noted.


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