Deployment of volunteer doctors to Cebu City suspended following outcry

<i>Photo: Department of Health / FB</i>
Photo: Department of Health / FB

It looks like protesting does work sometimes.

The Department of Health in Western Visayas (DOH-6) has suspended, albeit indefinitely, the scheduled deployment of the region’s volunteer doctors to Cebu City after the healthcare workers rejected its plan.

DOH-6 will be putting off sending 39 rural doctors until the department could address the medical workers’ concerns, Regional Director Marlyn Convocar said in a statement yesterday.

“Until meeting today, June 29, members of the first batch of the medical team personally expressed their concern to the CHD [Center for Health Development] director. As such, [the] deployment will be temporarily held in abeyance until issues and concerns are settled with all concerned physicians and other stakeholders,” Convocar said.

Read: Transfer of volunteer doctors to Cebu City to push through despite protests

DOH-7 said it had initially planned to send a team of medical workers to the Queen City of the South in four batches. These were supposed to be composed of volunteers from its Doctors to the Barrios program and those from its Post Residency Deployment Program, or doctors assigned to provincial hospitals.

Deployment was supposed to have started yesterday and will continue until Sept. 5, and each group was supposed to work for 14 days, followed by two weeks of quarantine. DOH initially planned on sending the doctors to the city’s private hospitals, a proposal which drew flak.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque ordered the deployment of the doctors late last week, which was done shortly after Cebu City’s nurses, who were overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 cases, threatened to quit their jobs.  The volunteer doctors rejected the order and said his directive was a clear violation of existing laws. The doctors also lamented that they were not properly informed of Duque’s plan.

In addition, there were fears that the absence of doctors in far-flung areas would leave their residents vulnerable to various health problems. DOH said however, that despite the planned deployment, the communities will still have healthcare services, but did not explain how they plan to replace the volunteer doctors once they leave for Cebu City.

Read: ‘Too Complacent’: Duterte blames Cebuanos’ overconfidence for rising COVID-19 cases

Cebu City, an urban hub in Visayas island, is considered the new epicenter of COVID-19 in the country. As of yesterday, the city’s confirmed coronavirus cases stands at 4,639,  with 81 deaths and 646 recoveries.

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