House bill on Medical Reserve Corps Act hurdles 3rd reading
MANILA, Philippines—Members of the House of Representatives approved a bill creating a medical reserve corps (MRC) to assist the Philippines’ health system in times of public health emergencies on the third and final reading.
With 195 affirmative votes and six dissenting votes, lawmakers approved House Bill No. 8999 or the “Medical Reserve Corps Act” during Thursday’s session.
Under the proposed measure, an MRC shall be established under the Department of Health (DOH) and shall be composed of licensed physicians, medical students who have completed their four years of the medical course, graduates of medicine, registered nurses, and licensed allied health professionals who may be called upon to assist the national government, its agencies, and instrumentalities, and local government units (LGUs).
The bill also enlists the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to provide expertise on the organization of the MRC for efficient, reliable, and swift deployment, as well as disaster and emergency response training for recruits.
In times of crisis or other public health crises, the AFP can also augment the MRC’s logistics and manpower.
In explaining his “no” vote, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said establishing a “military structure” under the DOH would not help solve the current health crisis.
“Ngayong nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya ng COVID-19, lantad na lantad ang kakulangan sa hospital, doktor, nars, PPE (personal protective equipment), gamot at marami pang iba,” he said.
(We are currently in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, the issue is a shortage of clinics, physicians, nurses, PPEs, medication, and other resources.)
“Sa pagtatayo ng Medical Reserve Corps, inililihis nito ang limitadong health workers, pondo at rekurso na sana ay maggagamit natin para mapalakas ang health care system ng Pilipinas,” he added.
(The establishment of the medical reserve corps deviates from the limited number of health staff, budget, and resources that should have been used to strengthen the Philippines’ health care system.)
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