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Calling The Filipino Doctor To Duty

Don’t look now, but the DOH has kicked itself in the mouth, yet again.

This is the second time that the DOH, via Secretary Francisco Duque III, issued an ill-advised “call to arms” for the medical community.

Whether it was through lack of marketing and communications foresight, or a complete and total lack of foresight, period, the DOH certainly made the wrong move when it had initially released a call to arms for healthcare workers, asking them to “volunteer” in the fight against COVID-19, working for a paltry sum of ₱500 a day. On the 6th of April, 2020, the DOH changed its tone, revising its compensation guidelinesfor healthcare workers.

Instead of the mere ₱500 a day, the entire compensation package now states that the DOH will provide:
  • A monthly salary compensation with 20% premium based on the basic salary, regardless of the number of quarantine days per month
  • Hazard pay of ₱500 daily whether the healthcare worker is on duty or under required quarantine
  • GSIS group insurance (one time premium of ₱500)
  • Benefits under the Bayanihan We Heal As One Act
    • PhilHealth hospitalization benefits
    • ₱100,000 in case of infirmity due to COVID-19
    • ₱1,000,000 in case of death
  • Communication and transportation allowance of ₱1,000 per month.
  • Public health workers, who are exposed to health risk in the light of the pandemic, are also eligible to receive one-time special risk allowance of up to 25% of their monthly basic pay
  • Other Benefits:
    • Protective Personal Equipment (PPEs)
    • Board and lodging while on duty or on quarantine
    • Psychosocial support, as needed
    • Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units, which may be granted through Health Human Resource Development Bureau (HHRDB) certification
    • Medico-legal assistance
    • Preferential evaluation for DOH vacancies, depending on qualifications: Priority will be given to those who signed up as volunteers for the COVID-19 response in DOH sites.

It is sad and rage-inducing that if not for the social media backlash, the DOH wouldn’t have changed its tune regarding how it planned to compensate the medical personnel that it called to almost certain death.

As of today, the 19th of May, 2020, the statistics for healthcare workers affected by COVID-19 are as follows:

Medical Technologists:
Nursing Assistants:
Others (admin, barangay health workers):
Actively Infected:
Total Infected As Of 5/17/2020:

You can also view these stats on our latest Weekly Update.

Now that we have the stories of the original call to arms, and the revision of the compensation plan out of the way, let’s talk about the latest call to arms: Deputizing the fresh doctors and flinging them to the battlefield of COVID-19.

The medical practice, whether you’re a doctor, a nurse, a medical technologist, a radiologist, or even an orderly, is a call to suit up, and go into battle. Often, it is a fight against invisible enemies like the COVID-19 virus. It is also a risk of certain death. Like today’s Coronavirus debacle.

Yes, we can count on these individuals called to duty as healthcare professionals, but it is obscene to risk the lives of the inexperienced, especially in a milieu where the country is divided on the leadership.

Yes, ultimately, it is always the doctor’s choice whether they’ll suit up and go into battle, or not. However, there is something jarring and disturbing about how a leadership that has made rather questionable decisions now calls upon the cavalry of future doctors to help win this war against COVID-19.

As Dr. Maya Pelayo, Infectious Diseases consultant at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Q.C. has noted:
“As much as nakakahaggard na itong ginagawa namin, I wouldn’t dare risk the lives of newly graduated doctors.”

Yes, the job for the Pinoy Doctor is daunting. It is not for the faint of heart. Yes, they are in need of more hands on deck. But must we draft the young and vulnerable?

Take note that the DOH Secretary has specified that he will allow the hiring of:
  • Medical school graduates who have not yet taken their licensure exams.
  • Medical school graduates who have completed the Post Graduate Internship within 2 years prior to the March 17, 2020 lockdown.
  • The potential deputized physician should not have tried to take the Physician Licensure Examination for 3 times or more prior to his application for deputization.
  • And should the applicant get the green light, they’ll receive a monthly package of ₱38,463.60 including the other benefits outlined in the Interim Guidelines for Emergency Hiring of Health Personnel.

In spite of this seemingly attractive package for an inexperienced, even unlicensed physician, would you actually take the deal? If you were a parent of the said physician, would you allow them to serve as a frontliner in these times?

We applaud those who heed the call. Your courage and downright heroism in making this sacrifice are unparalleled. However, we also respect those who will choose to live to serve another day. It is but fitting and logical, especially given that the inexperienced and the unlicensed were drafted for duty.

Times like these need strong leadership and solid decisionmaking. There are better solutions and strategies out there than to draft the young, inexperienced and vulnerable. Maybe it’s high time for our officials to stop taking that daily mic, detach for a moment, introspect, and come up with better ideas than what they’ve been throwing haphazardly onto the table.


Photo Credits: The Sun UK

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