DOH defends deployment of ‘doctors to the barrios’ to Cebu

AN official of the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, June 29, 2020, said the agency “acted within the bounds of its authority” when it decided to deploy to Cebu City two batches of healthcare workers under the Doctors to the Barrios Program.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a dialog is ongoing with some of the doctors who have refused to heed the government’s call for assistance in the current Cebu-centered response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) epidemic in the country.

Vergeire said deployment of members of batches 36 and 37 of the DTTB program to Cebu City is anchored on Proclamation 922, which declared a state of public health emergency in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a statement earlier Monday, the DOH said those who will be sent to Cebu City are rural health physicians, not municipal health officers.

This means that “municipalities will not be left doctorless during their assignment and health care services will continue.”

The agency said DTTBs will be provided with roundtrip transportation, statutory allowances, actual hazard duty pay, accommodations and incidental expenses during their deployment as well as during post-deployment quarantine.

The DOH statement noted that this temporary assignment to Cebu City is not new as DTTBs were previously deployed to areas with similar emergency situations. The agency cited the Marawi siege in 2017 and the Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

In her regular virtual press conference Monday afternoon, Vergeire said this is in response to the surging cases of Covid-19 in Cebu City and the high critical care utilization rate, which she described in a previous statement as approaching critical level.

She stressed that the primary purpose for the DTTB program remains.

Under the program, doctors are deployed usually to remote areas where access to healthcare is a challenge, and where quality health care services is most needed.

“As the country remains in a state of public health emergency due to Covid-19, and cases reaching a critical point in Cebu City, the department is grateful to all who heeded the call of duty during these daunting times,” the DOH said.

The DOH issued the statement in response to complaints by some doctors over their reassignment to Cebu City. (Marites Villamor-Ilano/SunStar Philippines)


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