Editorial: ‘Ilawg sa tirong’

Editorial Cartoon by Ariel Itumay

THIS was the term broadcaster and commentator Bobby Nalzaro used in a radio program in referring to government’s move to reopen face-to-face classes for schools of medicine and allied sciences as a way to reinforce the fleet of frontliners in this pandemic. These future doctors, nurses, therapists, midwives, medical technologists and physical therapists appear like they are being fed into the lair.

Late last month, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) released a list of 24 schools that have complied with the guidelines for reopening. Ched Chairman Prospero de Vera III said they have been “inspected by Ched and their LGUs so they can now bring their third and fourth year students for hands-on training and laboratory classes in a limited face-to-face system.”

Malacañang said the move is to ensure a steady supply of doctors to deal with the pandemic. Three schools in Cebu made it to the list in February, namely, University of Cebu School of Medicine, Southwestern University Phinma and Cebu Institute of Medicine. The campuses have been retrofitted for the pandemic normal to protect students.

The Ched said the priority goes for students in their junior and senior years, which would mean those on the year level for internship deployment in hospitals and community health facilities. Apparently, and again as government admits, this is to add manpower at the frontlines.

While this happens, the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) also shows up with its own initiative. It said it will deploy 100 nurses to hospitals and medical facilities in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, or “NCR Plus.”

Opav Undersecretary Jonji Gonzales reports that as of April 5, 2021, 40 nurses from Cebu made it in the deployment list, to “NCR Plus” they go on April 8. Half of them from from the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center; the other half are from the Department of Health (DOH) 7.

To sweeten the offer, the Opav said workers will receive a Bayani incentive of P5,000 per month, courtesy of the agency and Project Balik Buhay’s three-month contract. The amount is on top of the basic P33,575 for nurses and P60,901 for doctors. They will also get a premium of 20 percent, round-trip traveling expenses courtesy of the DOH and the Philhealth premium. The host hospital will take care of the workers’ accommodation.

Eyed in the deployment are the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Lung Center of the Philippines, San Lazaro Hospital, Tondo Medical Center and Rizal Medical Center.

These moves come when the country is deep into the cumulative case count of 800,000 infections, with 143,726 or 17.9 percent. For straight days, the count of new cases had not been below 8,000 and reports fly that hospital queues have gone desperate, death peeling away people deprived of emergency care.

The rub in all these is that all these scampering for resources isn’t solely because of the pandemic, which is nothing but a whiff that exposed what had been cursed with neglect for the longest time. The lack of personnel had been the perennial bane of our public health care system.

The Global Health Security Index 2019 report ranked the Philippines 53rd in 195 countries in terms of health security.

We scored zero in five indicators, namely: 1) Linking public health and security authorities; 2) Communication with healthcare workers during public health emergencies; 3) Dual-use research and culture of responsible science; 4) Biosafety; and 5) Joint external evaluations and performance of veterinary services.

Studies have shown that countries that performed poorly during the pandemic are those with corrupt governments, which perennially tend to neglect sufficient spending for its health care system.

These moves by the Opav and Ched are helpful, alright, but reeks of an undercurrent of desperation of a country whose health care system has been, for almost all eternity, sick and gasping for dear life.


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