'Buwis-buhay': Manpower woes at PGH as volunteer doctors opt not to renew contracts

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 13 2021 10:11 AM | Updated as of Sep 13 2021 03:30 PM

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MANILA - Volunteer doctors at the Philippine General Hospital opted not to renew their contracts, further highlighting the staffing crisis at the country's premiere COVID-19 referral facility, its spokesperson said Monday.

Dr. Jonas Del Rosario said manpower in PGH is currently stretched out as coronavirus patients continue coming in, while healthcare workers are getting sick and some volunteer doctors quitting.

"Talagang nararamdaman namin yung problema namin sa manpower (We really feel the problem on manpower). A lot of our healthcare workers are getting sick also. Marami na ring pagod at (many are sick and) some are also exposed to the virus so they have to undergo the mandatory quarantine," he told ANC's Headstart.

"So if you take this altogether on top of that some of the healthcare workers—these are volunteers who decided not to renew their contracts, and understandably so. They have been helping us for almost a year. So if you will take this into account and a lot of patients are coming in, we’re operating on full capacity, talagang naii-stretch out yung aming manpower," he said.

He said over the last year, PGH had 25 volunteer doctors, but some of them had to quit to pursue their subspecialty. 

"Malaking tulong po sila, ito pong mga DOH volunteer. We had 25 over the course of a year. Laking pasasalamat namin sa mga DOH volunteer na ito. These are mostly general medical doctors who volunteered and they got salary pay from DOH. Over the course of a year, siguro they had other plans na," he said.

(They were a big help, these DOH volunteers. We had 25 over the course of a year. We are grateful for these DOH volunteers. These are mostly general medical doctors who volunteered and they got salary pay from DOH. Over the course of a year, maybe they already had other plans.)

To be able to continue the operations of their COVID-19 wards, Del Rosario said PGH had to implement "task-sharing" among departments, with Director Dr. Gap Legaspi asking for more residents to be sent to the Internal Medicine Department, which mainly handles coronavirus patients.

PGH originally had 320 beds allotted for COVID-19 patients, but is now operating beyond its capacity. Del Rosario said 310 patients are currently admitted, with 40 more waiting in the emergency room. He said "it's definitely impossible" to get in the 200 more patients "waiting in the wings," hoping to be transferred to the hospital.

"It’s so hard to open up new beds, new wards if we do not have the right doctors to take care of them. A lot of our patients are severely ill, so they really demand specialists not just sometimes general doctors...So malaking bagay yung manpower (Manpower is really a big help)," Del Rosario said when asked what kind of help the PGH needs at the moment.

He said the PGH is currently hiring doctors and is even trying to get the help of private practitioners. The Department of Health is "willing to pay for any takers," he said.

Although there are billions of pesos allocated for the hiring of healthcare workers, Del Rosario said "you really have to increase their salary, really way above what they are getting now" to be able to invite them to come on board.

"They are doing extra work. Sabi nga ng iba, buwis buhay yung ginagawa nila (As some say, they're putting their lives on the line here). They really want them to be compensated and you hear stories na even the basic hazard pay, their SRAs delayed pa," he said.

"So nagpa-pile up po yan: napapagod sila physically, emotionally (That piles up: they are physically, emotionally tired) then they don’t get the compensation they feel they deserve and there are also other opportunities that are open, out of the Philippines. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of our frontliners are resigning and they are taking the jobs being offered in first-world countries," he added.

"I think bottomline is at least taasan mo man lang yung suweldo for now, nitong during the pandemic."

(I think the bottomline is you have to increase the salary for now, during the pandemic.)

Del Rosario is also pleading with the public to get themselves inoculated because most of the severely or critically ill COVID-19 patients that they handle were those who were unvaccinated.

"So tulong niyo na rin indirectly sa mga ospital ito, not only PGH, because if you do not get that sick, then you do not have to be in the hospital and that means hindi kayo kailangang alagaan at dumagdag pa sa tututukan pa ng mga doktor," he said.

(That is your indirect help to the hospitals, not only PGH, because if you do not get that sick, then you do not have to be in the hospital and that means you won't have to be cared for and add to the patients the doctors have to treat.)

According to a monitoring by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group, about 16 million individuals in the Philippines are fully immunized against COVID-19. This represents 20.92 percent of the government's target of inoculating 77 million people.

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