DOH ponders providing security for rural doctors

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 05 2017 06:15 AM

Doctors and health workers deployed to rural and conflict areas may soon receive "police escorts" or "security training" as the health department looks for ways to protect its ground personnel, Heath Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said Saturday.

The development comes a few days after barrio doctor Dreyfuss Perlas was shot dead by an unidentified assailant while he was driving his motorcycle in Lanao del Norte.

"The DOH is now reviewing our policies and guidelines on how to better support our doctors and health workers on the ground," Ubial told ABS-CBN News in a text message.

Among the options being considered by the department are "providing security training, having police escorts, or re-assignment when (a personnel is) under threat," Ubial said.

The health chief, who also pursued rural practice instead of residency, said boosting security for health workers is important as it is common for medical practioners in conflict zones to be "kidnapped and asked to pay ransom."

The DOH does not intend to stop sending medical personnel to far-flung areas after Perlas' death.

"We cannot buckle down now . . . If we retreat and the terrorists continue, Doctor Perlas' death would be in vain," Ubial said.

The government should work together to keep doctors and health workers safe, as "they are the most valuable resource in the Health sector," she said.