DOH in dialogue with doctors to the barrios over controversial Cebu City deployment

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 05:48 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Monday said it will continue to talk to doctors to the barrios who questioned the government’s move to deploy them temporarily to the COVID-19 hotspot Cebu City.

"Doctors to the Barrios" is a program created by the DOH in 1993 to address the lack of doctors practicing in geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas in the Philippines.

As of June 27, the positivity rate for Region 7 was at 33%, which means that for every 100 individuals being tested in the region, 33 were positive for the virus.

The DOH already said that those who volunteered to serve in the rural areas of Western and Central Visayas will be transferred to Cebu City, which has seen a large increase COVID-19 cases.

“Patuloy po ang ating dialogue sa ating mga Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) batches 36 and 37 tungkol sa kanilang deployment sa Cebu City,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing.

(Our dialogue with Doctors to the Barrios batches 36 and 37 about their deployment to Cebu City continues.)

The said batches issued a position paper on Sunday, calling the move an “abrupt exploitative order” to transfer doctors.

Batches 36 and 37 said they were not informed or consulted about the transfer. They also questioned the decision to send some of them to private hospitals.

Vergeire did not mention the deployment of some to private facilities but she said that there is a great need for doctors in Cebu City.

She pointed out that while some have refused, they are thankful for health workers who continue to work.

“Pursuant to Section 2 of Proclamation no. 922 and due to the still existing state of public health emergency in the country, assistance and cooperation of all government agencies and local government units are expected in addressing the COVID-19 threat,” Vergeire said, referring to the proclamation declaring a state of public health emergency in the Philippines.

“Hence, The Department acted within the bounds of its authority when it ordered the redeployment of the doctors to the barrios,” she added.

Vergeire said that while the current health response is “Cebu-centered,” “the primary intent of the doctors to the barrios remain and that is to serve all people in the country.”

The DOH also earlier said that only rural health physicians will be deployed so there are still municipal health officers left in the affected areas.

But the multi-sector Citizens' Urgent Response to End COVID-19 (CURE COVID) pointed out that “DTTB doctors are hired to fill in the manpower gaps in the rural areas."

"Priorities for deployment are low income, doctorless municipalities and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas where the doctor to patient ratio exceeds the recommended 1:20,000,” it said.

The group said that fighting the COVID-19 pandemic should be “a balance between curative and the more equally important public preventive health measures which the DTTB’s are already fulfilling.”