MANILA- Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Monday urged the medical community to tell the Philippine government what they need and what must be done to better respond to the coronavirus crisis.
Calling health workers "the most powerful sector in the Philippines right now," De Lima urged them to list down their demands and to let the government know of their needs.
"You now hold the power over life and death. In this battle against the virus, you are the frontliners. You are the thin white line that stands between us and catastrophe. Use that power to demand from government what you need to defeat the enemy," De Lima said.
"Make a list of your demands. What you want from government and what you think government needs to do," she added.
She also urged healthcare frontliners to put their demands in writing and send it to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management Emerging Infectious Disease.
"Whatever you need, whatever you want to fight this virus, put it in writing and send it to the IATF," De Lima said.
"Tell them how government should spend our taxes and utilize all other available resources. Tell them to spend it now on things that you need to keep saving lives and to keep protecting yourselves," she added.
De Lima, likewise, assured the medical community that they have the public's support.
"We are behind you. Without you, we will have no chance whatsoever to survive this pandemic, not the generals, not the lawyers, not the bankers, not the politicians, not the bureaucrats. No, only you can save us," she said.
Responding to De Lima's message, the Alliance of Health Workers thanked the senator, adding they have been continuously airing their demands to the government.
"That even before the COVID-19 pandemic, AHW is in the forefront in advancing the health workers’ rights and welfare," it added.
Among the demands enumerated by AHW are free mandatory testing of all hospital workers; immediate distribution of personal protect equipment; consistency from the Department of Health (DOH) in terms of posting reports relative to COVID-19 cases; consistent reporting of cases and deaths from public and private hospitals, immediate hiring and training of regular health workers; additional and just hazard pay benefits for workers, and safety from discrimination, among others.
"Rest assured that we will continuously and untiringly demand government authorities to ensure the safety and protection of our frontline healthcare workers as we courageously fight the unseen enemy, and demand accountability from them," AHW said, noting that such demands will never be realized without the support of lawmakers.
"Therefore, just like Senator De Lima, we urge other legislators to show support, make concrete actions to health workers and patients’ safety, general public and the entire public health care system," the group added.
In a separate statement, the Filipino Nurses United reiterated its earlier call for better protection of nurses in the country, and that their welfare must be ensured.
"Our frontline health workers are exposed to COVID-19 due to absence of standard PPEs needed to protect them," the group's president, Maristela Abenojar told ABS-CBN News.
"Mass testing is the key strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to flatten the curve. At present, the reported number of COVID-19 cases is still undereported unless mass testing is done. Health workers must be prioritized in mass testing, aside from suspect COVID cases," she added.
Abenojar also called for better treatment of nurses.
"With or without COVID 19, the government must ensure safe work environment, just salaries and benefits, as well as humane treatment for the largest health work force, the nurses. This health care system will collapse if nurses will continue to be exploited. It takes political will of the government to protect the dignity of our nurses," she added.
The Philippines as of Monday confirmed 4,932 cases of the disease, with 315 deaths and 242 patients who recovered.