MANILA — The Department of Health said Tuesday it decided to make the re-assignment of rural doctors to Cebu City voluntary following the issues raised by the physicians.
“Because of the past days’ turn-of-events, maraming issues pa ang lumabas (more issues surfaced). So it was decided it will be voluntary for now,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing on Tuesday morning.
Vergeire said the DOH decided to deploy physicians under the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program because it was “trying to exhaust [their] resources.”
“Nung nakipag-usap tayo (sa doctors), maraming nag-refuse. And this is quite disheartening,” Vergeire said.
(When we talked to the doctors, many refused. And this is quite disheartening.)
The DTTB was established by the DOH in 1993 to address the lack of doctors in far-flung areas.
When the DOH announced it was going to deploy DTTB doctors to Cebu City, which is an emerging hotspot of COVID-19 in the Philippines, two batches questioned the move, saying they were not consulted.
The doctors called it an “exploitative order,” especially since some will be placed in private hospitals. They said it went against the thrust of the DTTB program, which was to serve disadvantaged areas.
The Community Medicine and Development Foundation also said that the DOH was “gaslighting” the doctors to make it appear that they are being unpatriotic when they are only ensuring that they serve “resource-poor communities who are also in dire need of care.”
Vergeire said the original plan was to deploy 40 doctors in batches of 10.
“The rotation will be every 2 weeks, then 2 weeks quarantine, before they go back to their area,” she said.
However, they found out that 11 could not be deployed since three of them were pregnant while others were serving areas that did not have any other doctors.
And, because also of the controversy, Vergeire said it was decided to just make it voluntary just so doctors can still be sent to Cebu City.
Vergeire confirmed that some of the government doctors may be placed in private hospitals but the DOH will ensure they will not be taken advantage of. She said the doctors won’t be placed in operating rooms, but will instead serve as supplement to hospital triage areas.
For now, the DOH is still in dialogue with the doctors.
To address the demand for doctors in Cebu City, Vergeire said there are slots for Cebu from the department's emergency hiring program.
Vergeire said they will also check if they can lend doctors from other hospitals.
“We are trying to source out some professionals from others universities in Cebu,” she said.
Vergeire said the DOH should know by Tuesday afternoon how many doctors to the barrios will volunteer for Cebu City.
Cebu City has recorded 5,915 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of 5 p.m. of June 29, of which, 3,374 are active.
The neighboring cities of Mandaue and Lapulapu have 772 and 609 confirmed cases, respectively, of which, 530 and 475 are active. For the rest of Cebu province, a total of 1,120 cases have been recorded, of which, 834 are active.