The Department of Health’s call for volunteer health care personnel was questioned online after it posted a daily commodity distribution report which was perceived as not enough to protect them against the novel coronavirus disease.
On Friday, the DOH reiterated its call for volunteer doctors, nurses, nurse assistants and hospital orderlies to combat COVID-19.
These “health care warriors” will be assigned to either of the three referral hospitals, namely, the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City for a month.
“We are facing a formidable but beatable enemy! We need more healthcare warriors in the fight against COVID-19! We are looking for doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, and hospital orderlies who will heed the call to serve,” its caption read.
We are facing a formidable but beatable enemy! We need more healthcare warriors in the fight against COVID-19!We are…
Attached on the post is the link to DOH’s volunteer portal, where each type of medical profession are listed.
The links of opportunities listed the type of tasks, food and accommodation, and compensation for each position.
The DOH stated that accommodation, food and an allowance worth P500 per day will be provided for the entire duration of their service.
In case they contract COVID-19 while on duty, an insurance worth P100,000 in cash will be given to them.
Should they die due to disease while on duty, their families will receive P1 million from the government.
Telemedicine doctors or those who practice medicine remotely are the only ones who will not receive any of these benefits despite the services they would provide.
The P500 daily compensation became the subject of criticisms on local Twitter, mostly saying that these medical practitioners deserve more.
The keyword “Php 500” made it to the top trending list on Twitter Philippines on Friday with more than 9,000 tweets as of writing.
“So the DOH is inviting volunteer doctors to be frontliners in COVID hospitals who will handle COVID-19 patients and who will be risking their lives in the line of duty with just….500 pesos per day? Wow, di man lang daw natin deserve ang minimum,” one Twitter user said.
Another online user @lakwatsarah questioned why the health department is not compensating them for the risks these Filipinos will be exposed to.
“Why is DOH calling for volunteer doctors and nurses and not compensating them for the health risks and hazards that they will be exposed to?” the user said.
Influencer dermatologist The Nerdy Derma also advised the members of the medical community to not be manipulated in joining the initiative if they could not afford to become one.
“Do not be manipulated into thinking na wala kang kwentang doktor/nars/medtech/radtech kasi ayaw mo magvolunteer. Bakit magvovolunteer kung gagawin kang pain (bait) sa gera. Kung mamatay ka, so what? Hahanap lang sila ng bagong ‘volunteer,’” she said.
Insufficient commodities and personnel
On Thursday, the DOH posted on Facebook the list of commodities it distributed to the health sector on March 25.
Commodities included 48 bottles of 1-L alcohol, 130 4-L alcohol, 100 aprons, 1,370 coveralls and 27,560 N95 masks.
The DOH did not indicate the beneficiary hospitals or the areas where these commodities were distributed.
DAILY COMMODITY DISTRIBUTION REPORT for March 25, 2020.The following much-needed commodities were distributed today to…
The amount was perceived as insufficient considering the number of doctors, nurses and other practitioners handling COVID-19 cases in entire country.
Hello, tweeps! Gusto nyo bang kumulo lalo ang dugo ninyo, lalo na sa DOH? Pwes. pic.twitter.com/CXeJU7D8xO
— #PrOkra Winfrey (@mrsunlawyer) March 26, 2020
The state health agency earlier noted that there has been a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment or PPEs, the main protective clothing in the health sector.
Despite such setback, the agency hoped they could recruit more people, particularly those who can conduct contract tracing.
“Nananawagan din tayo sa volunteers na pwede tumulong sa contact tracing,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
Laws to protect health workers
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469), signed into law this week, granted President Rodrigo Duterte special powers: to ensure an additional “COVID-19 special risk allowance” and hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
All medical expenses of both private and public health workers in case of COVID-19 should also be shouldered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation during the duration of the quarantine.
The Section 8 of Republic Act 11058 or the law on Occupational Safety and Health Standards also states that
“Every employer, contractor or subcontractor, if any, shall provide his workers, free of charge, protective equipment for their eyes, face, hands and feet, and free, and lifeline, safety belt or harness, gas or dust respirators or masks, protective shields whenever necessary.”
Moreover, the World Health Organization said that all health workers have the right to be provided “adequate IPC and PPE supplies (masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, hand sanitizer, soap and water, cleaning supplies).”
They should also not incur expenses for their occupational and health requirements.
“Health workers are at the front line of any outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection with an outbreak pathogen (in this case COVID-19). Hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence,” WHO said.