(First of four parts)
Reacting to the mounting concerns raised by the medical community, Senate committee on health and demography chair Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go assured them that the government would not take their pleas sitting down.
“Sila po ang mga bayani sa laban na ito. Tulungan natin sila at huwag nang pahirapan pa. Lahat po ng serbisyo na pwedeng ibigay sa ating health workers, ibigay na po natin agad sa lalong madaling panahon,” the senator said.
On Saturday, around 40 medical groups told the president, COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque through an open letter, the country’s healthcare system is already at its maximum capacity and calling for a timeout through reverting Metro Manila to stricter quarantine measures.
On the same day of the public briefing conducted by medical associations, Go said Malacanang immediately called for a virtual meeting led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, to discuss the frontliners’ concerns.
Representatives from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), and the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 were also asked to join and discuss recommendations to be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte.
The president will meet his top Cabinet officials to discuss their recommendations and that of the medical community’s.
Go challenged government officials to deliver their commitments. “Dapat kung may binitawang salita, maibigay at huwag tagalan ang serbisyo. Kung mangangako kayo, siguraduhin ninyo na mabibigay para hindi kayo malagay sa alanganin at madamay ang Pangulo.”
The senator, for his part, said he is studying the possibility of providing financial assistance and additional benefits such as life insurance coverage for private sector healthcare workers (HCWs) who are assigned to handle COVID-19 cases.
He cited that while public sector HCWs are provided better compensation and benefits by the government, those in the private sector are more often not provided the same.
“Kakausapin ko po si Pangulong Duterte, ang ating finance managers at ibang mga mambabatas kung pwedeng maisali pa sa Bayanihan 2 bill ang probisyon na magbibigay dagdag benepisyo sa healthcare workers, sa pribado man o publikong sector. O baka pwedeng magawan ng paraan sa Executive branch nalang through a directive from the President,” Go said, explaining that this can be funded by recommending its inclusion in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Bill still pending Congress, or if possible, through a Presidential directive.
Go is also appealing to concerned agencies to provide accommodation and transportation assistance and to issue Work and Quarantine Passes to on-duty HCWs so they can conveniently report to work. He added that free and frequent COVID-19 testing must also be made available to them.
As Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Go vowed that he will continue to push for the enactment of measures that can further protect and promote the welfare of the whole medical community.
Among the bills he filed are Senate Bill 1226 or the proposed Department of Health (DOH) Hospital Bed Capacity and Service Capability Rationalization Act, which aims to authorize DOH to increase bed capacity and service capability of its retained hospitals; SB 1451, also known as the Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020 to augment the health workforce; and SB 395 or the Advanced Nursing Education Act of 2019 to enhance nursing programs.