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

A healthworker in the Philippines. Photo: Department of Health/FB
A healthworker in the Philippines. Photo: Department of Health/FB

The Department of Health (DOH) will push through with its plan to transfer volunteer doctors from Visayas to private hospitals in Cebu City despite protests from medical professionals.

In an interview today with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the order to transfer the doctors from rural areas in the Western and Central Visayas to the city came from Secretary Francisco Duque. The medical professionals, who volunteered for the government’s Doctors to the Barrios program, were assigned by the DOH to work in underserved communities.

Read: No To Doctor Shaming: Cebu Governor Garcia skewered for scolding young GP online

“This will push through. This was ordered by the Secretary of Health because we have a public health emergency and we saw that there was a lack of human resources in Cebu, that’s why we need to push through. We talked to the doctors yesterday and we will talk to them again this morning so that there are more clarity and order but definitely this will push through,” Vergeire said in English and Filipino.

The rural medical workers yesterday slammed the DOH’s decision, saying that it was a violation of the law. Observers have also said that by removing the doctors from their communities, they leave the residents of such places highly vulnerable to health risks.

The DOH ordered their transfer after Cebu City nurses working in private hospitals threatened to quit their jobs as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city.

“The absence of proper communication, justifying the temporary reassignment of rural health physicians serving in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) to serve in private hospitals in Cebu City is a clear violation of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers,” the group said.

They complained that they were not consulted by the DOH prior to making its decision, and as well as the leaders of the towns in which they were working.

“Failing to do so makes such directives exploitative for doctors and inconsiderate for the communities that they serve. There is [a] complete disregard to (sic) the concerns of the doctors and the local chief executives,” they said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año today declared the Queen City of the South the new epicentre of the pandemic, admitting that the extremely high number of COVID-19 cases and deaths is worrying the government.

Cebu City, considered the Philippines’ unofficial second capital, is the only area in the country that remains under the enhanced community quarantine, the strictest level of lockdown. President Rodrigo Duterte blamed Cebuanos in a speech last week, saying that their complacency and overconfidence led to their dire situation.



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