Ex-health chief wants 'reserve medical corps' for health emergencies


Posted at Apr 20 2020 12:44 AM

MANILA - A former Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) said the government should consider having a reserve corps of medical professionals to respond to health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to ANC, Dr. Esperanza Cabral said she has brought up the idea of a reserve medical corps to lawmakers.

"Much like the military has its reserve military corps, I think there should be some provision for doing the same thing for health workers because when it comes to situations like this, it's very difficult if you don't have that," Cabral added.

Just like the military's reserve forces, members of the reserve medical corps would be "drafted" by the government when the need arises.

"These people, these doctors, they go about their usual business but they know that when the time comes that they are needed by government to do something, they have to respond to that call," Cabral said.

"They are practicing physicians but they can be called to service by the government," she added.

They would also have to undergo regular training to prepare them for outbreaks and disasters.

"It's very difficult in situations like this, you want to look for volunteers, and it's not so much what you pay for these people when they volunteer, it is the dignity, it is the realization that they are doing something good for their country," Cabral explained.

Once called to service, members of the reserve medical corps would have to sacrifice their private practice in order to help the government.

"They will have to sacrifice their private practice in order to respond to the call of government," Cabral said.

"It's not the compensation we are talking about, but we need to give them some dignity and some recognition," she added.

The DOH earlier reached out to medical and non-medical professionals willing to volunteer to augment the workforce at referral hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

The program, however, drew criticism over the P500 daily allowance that the DOH announced for each volunteer. Responding to calls for proper compensation, a lawmaker said Congress is willing to match it with the salary of newly hired government health workers.

As of Sunday, the Philippines has a total of 6,259 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of this number, 572 have recovered while 409 have died.