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Rough Cuts | Replenishing the depleted frontliners

We are saddened with reports that doctors who are leading the front line health workers fighting the deadly COViD 19) are dying in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world because of infection of the same illness.

As of yesterday there were already a total of five (5) medical practitioners in the country who died. The latest victim of the pandemic was the former President of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) Dr. Raul Diaz Jara. He was said to be about 68 years old.

It really is very disturbing to know that the very professionals that are supposed to be the last “go-to-persons” in times of health emergencies like the CoViD 19, are themselves becoming vulnerable to the infirmity they are supposed to provide the cure.

Also yesterday, leaders of the medical profession in the country were one in saying that they are apprehensive that with the magnitude of the health crisis engulfing the country the health system infrastructure could collapse.

They said they are apprehensive that the first to crumble is the structure of our health responders like doctors, nurses, medical technologists, nursing aides, and others in related medical fields, including service providers in hospital operations and management.

Yesterday, reports had it that more and more doctors and nurses, and other medical responders are undergoing quarantine. Some are already patients themselves waiting for what fate will bring them. And even if they will survive from the virulent effect of the disease, the next question is, when can they be able to work again in the front line.

Meanwhile that they are out of commission, there is substantial reduction in the number of medical responders both in the hospitals and outside.

Perhaps it is about time that the government has to adopt some more innovative measures that would surely entice medical professionals to volunteer, or perhaps agree to “starvation” remuneration and boldly march to the field of battle against the unseen but deadly enemy – CoViD 19.

We are talking of the possibility that the Philippine government will copy the move adopted by the Italian authorities. The latter are asking the new medical graduates to volunteer in responding to the CoViD pandemic that is now causing close to 500 deaths in that European country. In exchange, the Italian government is committing to waive the requirement for medical graduates to take and pass the board examination in order to get their license.

Maybe the Philippine government can work on taking the same approach and even improve on it so that after the health emergency the non-board CoViD war veterans could come out even more prepared than going through several months of review and finally passing the licensure examination.

After all, having experienced the actual exposure to a risky health emergency situation would not only hone up their skills but even prepare them physically and emotionally for the job they have studied in school for several years.

Related to the same issue we also agree to some propositions that it is about time that the government retrieves back the nurses its many schools have produced who are “snatched” by the higher paying job as call center agents.

Yes, the nurses cum call center agents may not have in their minds ending up working on their present job of answering inquiries from local and foreign clients had government and private hospitals in the country offered them competitive salaries and wages.

But no, the government is still mulling the idea of upgrading the salaries of nurses working in public hospitals and related institutions. And management of private hospitals in the country — large and small – are also not showing any indication that they are alleviating the starvation pay of their nurses.

Imagine, even leading private hospitals in Davao run by corporations and a few operated by the religious offering only entry level pay of a little over P11,000 a month!

And worst, there are hospitals that demand payment from nurses who wanted to work in order to gain experience. Their reason is that they’ll use their acquired experience in applying for jobs abroad. But why should such nurses be made to pay when they render work for the said hospitals?

Well, with the President likely to be granted the authority by Congress to align funds from the 2020 national budget in order to effectively respond to the raging pandemic, it is most opportune time to upgrade the salaries of government nurses.

Without doubt many of those licensed nurses now in call centers would be jumping to the government service. Then the government will have more warm bodies to replace the depleted frontliners against COVID-19.

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