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DOH seeks more benefits for health workers

LIVING HEROES Fr. Hans Magdurulang of San Felipe Neri Parish blesses the medical staff of Santa Ana Hospital in Manila on National Heroes’ Day. —RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) committed on National Heroes’ Day that it would continue to work on ensuring that medical frontliners are “protected and sufficiently provided for” even as it lauded the important role they play in controlling the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire credited the health workers and other medical experts Monday as she said that if not for their work and observations, the country would not have been able to manage its more than 217,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.

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“Their technical and medical expertise and community observations are very important in formulating our plans and providing the appropriate response. It is because of their help, inputs and tireless service that we were able to manage our cases in the quarantine and isolation facilities, maintain the low case fatality rate in the last few weeks and provide immediate action to the cases in our communities,” Vergeire said.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, Vergeire said that they had worked on ensuring that a “comprehensive benefit package” is provided for health workers in both public and private facilities.

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“We are continuously working with our medical and allied medical professional organizations to discuss what other support they need and what we can improve on so we could better respond to their needs,” she said.

President Duterte, for his part, has urged Filipinos to overcome “even the most unfavorable situations” as he paid tribute to Filipino front-liners battling the raging new coronavirus pandemic.

In his message for National Heroes’ Day on Monday, the President lauded both past and present day heroes for their heroism in fighting even a “different kind of enemy.”

“Present-day challenges posed by the current public health crisis has given rise to modern day heroes: the countless Filipino front-liners here and abroad who are battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Duterte said.

The Chief Executive also lauded the valor of past heroes who fought for the country’s freedom more than a century ago, while paying tribute to today’s heroes in a time of pandemic.

The President’s recorded message for National Heroes’ Day was played during the wreath-laying rites at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on Monday morning.

Mr. Duterte was represented by Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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Vice President Leni Robredo, also honored the front-liners in a statement: “As we face COVID-19 and its terrible effects, the spirit of our heroes lives within each of us, especially those in the front-lines of pandemic response, [who are] ready and willing to expand the reach of their compassion.”

Echoing her sentiment, Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said it was important to commemorate the front-liners who risk their lives every day to save others.

Senators also hailed the country’s health workers as heroes and called on the government to make sure they get the assistance they need to address the pandemic, such as quality, locally-made personal protective equipment (PPE) and hazard pay.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged the Senate to look into the government’s procurement of PPE after local manufacturers complained about its seeming preference for imported ones.

Hontiveros filed a resolution seeking a probe on the Bayanihan PPE Project, a collaboration between the DOH, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Board of Investments to boost local production of quality PPE for health workers.

But local garments manufacturers that shifted to PPE production said the government’s procurement of their items was way below the number they could actually produce.

The government should have a preference for locally-manufactured items over imported ones of possibly dubious quality, as this would also help the Philippine economy, Hontiveros said.

“It is imperative for the Philippine government to promote the preferential use of Filipino labor and locally manufactured products, and assure the growth and stability of this sector that not only provides safe and quality PPE for health-care workers, but also secures job retention for thousands of skilled Filipino factory workers amid the pandemic,” she said in her resolution.

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the DOH should ensure that medical front-liners receive their P500 daily hazard pay promptly.

He said he had received complaints from nurses, medical technologists and other health workers from public hospitals that they had not been given the hazard pay.

With a report from Krixia Subingsubing

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DoH, health workers' benefits, medical frontliners
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