Editorial: Our health workers deserve better

IN DAVAO City, some health workers aired their frustration on social media after allegedly being forcibly evicted by the management of the dormitory they are staying at.

In Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat, a personnel of St. Louis Hospital was "violently attacked" while on his way to work. In a public advisory by the hospital, it said that five individuals ganged up on him and splattered bleach on his face.

In areas in the country that are affected by Covid-19, health care workers are already thinly spread out to cater to the rising confirmed cases in the country. On top of this, some of them have started to contract the illness with some, especially doctors, reportedly dying due to the disease.

The Department of Health called for volunteer doctors and nurses to help in the country's fight against the disease. The agency will be paying the nurses and the doctors P500 per day, around P15,000 a month. Volunteers will also be provided with accommodation, food, and personal protective equipment. They will also be entitled to a compensation of P100,000 if they contract severe Covid-19 infection while on duty. They shall also receive a P1 million death benefit should they die because of the disease.

Doctors and health workers expressed dismay over what DOH is offering them, especially the P500 daily allowance, considering that they are being put in harm's way.

“It just clearly shows how little value and respect the Philippine government gives its doctors, nurses, staff who bear much of the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr. Ronnie Baticulon, who works for the Philippine General Hospital, was quoted saying in a report by ABS-CBN on March 27.

He added, “I don’t know which is more appalling: that the DOH did not consult any healthcare workers before putting this out, or if they did, but nobody objected.”

"You are risking your life... There are already a lot of health workers who are unwilling to go on duty because they are afraid of being exposed to Covid-19," Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, was quoted saying in the same ABS-CBN report.

Since the outrage from the health workers, the Department of Health has apologized for the compensation they are offering to the volunteer health workers.

"Humihingi rin po kami ng tawad kung ang impresyon na naibigay ng P500 daily allowance ay ganito lamang ang halaga na binibigay natin sa ating health care workers. Hindi po ito mas lalayo pa sa katotohanan," Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said.

Our health workers – doctors, nurses, medical technologists, radiologic technologists, among others – included non-medical staff in hospitals are our main battle force in this health crisis.

Since the outbreak, they have been working round the clock to ensure that Covid-19 patients are properly attended to. This is on top of other patients that they have to attend to. Coupled with these challenges, they also have to deal with limited resources, stubborn and dishonest patients, and different kinds of stress – mental, emotional, and physical.

It is not helping the health workers with how they are being treated by some people of the community they are serving and the government. Clearly, we can see that the morale of the medical community has started to waver.

Despite all these, they continue to serve the Filipino people.

Our health workers deserve so much more especially during this health crisis. They deserved to be properly compensated. They deserved to be cared. Effort and resources must be given to them to be able to efficiently battle this crisis. Who is going to save us if the enemy brings them down? Will the government act once the health system is about to collapse?


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