OCTA urges gov't: Send health workers from low-risk areas to NCR to help in COVID surge

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2021 01:16 PM | Updated as of Apr 03 2021 01:17 PM

MANILA - The OCTA Research Group on Saturday urged the government to send medical frontliners from low-risk areas to pandemic epicenter Metro Manila to "assist" overwhelmed hospitals in the region as COVID-19 cases continue to spike. 

"We urge the national government to consider transporting nurses and other health care workers from low-risk regions in the country to the NCR to assist their colleagues who are struggling with the ongoing surge in the capital," the OCTA said in a virtual forum. 

The suggestion came as the capital region and nearby provinces battled a surge in COVID-19 infections, with many hospitals already declaring full capacity. 

Some hospitals have appealed for the Department of Health (DOH) to augment their strained workforce as more COVID-19 patients are admitted to their facilities.

Health groups, on the other hand, had said that some hospitals already have a depleted workforce due to coronavirus infections among staff or workers who already resigned. Unreleased benefits also remained as a problem. 

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But OCTA member professor Ranjit Rye said while these are legitimate issues that government has to address immediately, "a lot of nurses" already expressed willingness to volunteer on the call to action based on accounts. 

"I've been informed that a lot of nurses, just like regular citizens, want to volunteer and help. This is a time when we need additional manpower to help hospitals that are in critical condition as far as occupancy is concerned," Rye said during the presser, noting that the call for reinforcement would be a challenge.

"I am told that a lot of nurses and health care workers in other places around the country... in the regions near NCR, are willing. What seems to be [unanswered] is how they will be compensated and where they will stay. But I am sure that the Department of Health will sort that out," he added. 

The expert also said their research unit supports the plight of medical frontliners, noting the importance of the government providing care and support for them during the health emergency. 

Latest data from the health department showed that 82 medical workers have died in the country since last year due to COVID-19, while there are some 644 active cases within the sector.

"It's high time that government finds a way to ensure that they are not just remunerated but they are well-protected and taken care of when they get sick," said Rye. 

The country on Friday rose to 15,000, the highest daily jump in new infections since the pandemic reached the Philippines over a year ago. Active infections, meanwhile, swelled to over 153,000 — considered as the highest in Southeast Asia. 

The health department on Friday night said 17 hospitals directly under it remains "operational" amid reports that some hospitals already suspended operations due to a spike in fresh COVID-19 infections.