Pullout of barrio doctors, nurses for COVID-19 fight in NCR raises virus fears


Posted at Aug 07 2020 09:27 AM

Watch more on iWantTFC

A government plan to pull out doctors and nurses deployed to geographically isolated and depressed areas in the Philippines and move to Metro Manila, the country’s coronavirus epicenter, has raised concerns among healthcare workers.

Dr. Carissa Rulla, a member of the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program, said there are only 20 plus doctors serving more than 400,000 people living in Tawi-Tawi province.

"Sila 'yung mga tao na hindi pa nakakakita ng doctor, hindi pa nakakatikim ng healthcare services ng government. Kung ma pull out kami sa areas namin, sino na ang maiiwan sa kanila?" she said in an interview on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

Rulla said that while there are only 4 COVID-19 cases in Tawi-Tawi, there is no assurance that the numbers will not rise as more people stranded in Metro Manila return to the provinces.

She said that aside from locally stranded individuals and suspected cases in isolation facilities, doctors must also monitor deportees coming from Sabah, Malaysia.

Many provinces are already deprived of medical professionals even before the pandemic. Some 70 percent of the country’s population live in rural areas, but 70 percent of healthcare resources are in cities, said Filipino Nurses United Secretary General Jocelyn Andamo.

“Kung ipu-pull out natin [ang health workers], mas lalong kawawa po ang ating mga kababayan sa probinsya, lalo ngayon sa stage natin, hindi natin masasabing na-contain na ang pagkalat ng COVID-19,” she told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo.

(If we pull our health workers, our compatriots in the province will suffer further, especially at this stage when we can’t say yet that the spread of COVID-19 has been contained.)

“Ano na lang mangyayari sa communities namin if we leave them?” added

(What will happen to our communities if we leave them?)

Rulla said she was not aware of any DTTB doctor who complied with the Department of Health’s memo urging medical workers from the province to temporarily transfer to Metro Manila.

“Paano kapag from National Capital Region ta’s bumalik kami sa area, kami pa ang magdala ng virus?” She said.

(What if we go to NCR and when we return to our area, we bring in the virus?)

Metro Manila and 4 surrounding provinces returned to the second strictest lockdown level until Aug. 18 after some 80 medical associations composed of thousands of health workers called for a "breathing space", unable to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

Watch Rulla and Andamo’s full interviews here.

TeleRadyo, Aug. 7, 2020