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BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas has suspended the deployment of 39 doctors from the region to Cebu City.
DOH-Western Visayas Director Marlyn Convocar said on Monday, June 29, that they made the decision after consulting with the group of doctors who were supposed to be deployed. The DOH central office had earlier directed some regional offices to send medical teams to Central Visayas due to the spike in new cases and widespread community transmission in Cebu City.
“Deployment will be temporarily held in abeyance until issues and concerns are settled with all concerned physicians and other stakeholders,” Convocar said.
She said DOH-Western Visayas had identified 25 Doctors to the Barrios (DTTBs) and 14 from the Post Residency Deployment Program for deployment in 4 batches from June 29 to September 5. Each batch will be on duty for 14 days, will also undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine period.
Convocar said that during the meeting with the first batch of the medical team up for deployment, the doctors “expressed their non-concurrence to the order and manifested some concerns to be considered by the management.”
She said the doctors reiterated their concern to her when they met on Monday.
As the country remained in a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 and cases reached a critical point in Cebu City, Convocar said DOH-Western Visayas is “calling for nationalism in the hearts of public healthcare workers to join the call for service where the service is most needed.”
The identified doctors for deployment are rural health physicians and not municipal health officers, which means that their respective municipalities would not be deprived of doctors and healthcare services in their absence, the DOH earlier said.
DOH-Western Visayas suspended the deployment of the medical team a day after DLLBs in Western Visayas slammed the directive to send them to Cebu City.
“We, the Doctors to the Barrios Batches 36-ALAB and 37-MANDALA strongly condemn this directive because: (1) the involved doctors have not been suitably informed through writing, (2) no proper consultation with the stakeholders was done prior to this directive, (3) detailed guidelines and protocols to protect the doctors in this temporary reassignment are not provided, and (4) it contradicts the thrust of the DTTB Program,” te group said in a statement.
They noted that the absence of proper communication, justifying the temporary reassignment of rural health physicians serving in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas to serve in private hospitals in Cebu City is a clear violation of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. (READ: Life of a doctor in the barrio)
They said it was only appropriate to hold proper consultation with all stakeholders prior to the directive as their assignment in the local government units they serve was bound by a memorandum of agreement.
“Failing to do so makes such directives exploitative for doctors and inconsiderate for the communities that they serve. There is a complete disregard to the concerns of the doctors and the local chief executives,” they stressed in the statement.
They said that in the absence of consultation, the DOH failed to provide clear protocols to safeguard and protect the DTTBs who will temporarily render service in private hospitals.
“No clear information regarding the DTTB’s safety, protection, lodging, insurance, and specific duties have been provided. The likelihood that the services rendered by public servants will be abused by private institutions increases because of the lack of clear guidelines for their protection. No proof of agreement between private institutions and the DOH were made available for discussion among all parties involved,” the group added.
They also said that they were “in a position to help decongest hospitals by providing primary care in our communities.”
As of June 29, Western Visayas reported a total of 307 confirmed cases, including 6 doctors from St Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo City. DOH-Western Visayas is conducting intensified contact tracing, while the hospital is reaching out to everyone believed to be exposed to the healthcare workers. – Rappler.com