DOH urged to permanently hire docs, nurses battling COVID-19

INSTEAD of giving them P500 daily allowance, a Metro Manila congressman on Friday proposed to the Department of Health (DOH) the permanent hiring of hundreds of doctors and nurses who have volunteered to help the government fight coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

“Instead of just giving them a daily allowance of P500, we should consider recruiting them to fill numerous vacancies in the DOH. Their willingness to take the risk and join the war against this disease is their best qualification for those jobs,” said Quezon City Rep.

Precious Hipolito Castelo, a vice chairperson of the House committee on Metro Manila development.

Castelo said compensation in the bureaucracy is attractive enough even for doctors and nurses, especially those who are just starting to practice their profession.

The entry pay for doctors is Salary Grade 21 (P59,353), while that for nurses is Salary Grade 15 (P32,053) under a Supreme Court ruling handed down in October last year, according to Castelo.

“Congress had included more than P3 billion in the national budget for this year for upgrading compensation for nurses in government hospitals who used to receive Salary Grade 11 pay,” said Castelo. 

She pointed out that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already started to implement the salary adjustment for nurses.

While the hiring of volunteer doctors and nurses as permanent personnel is being processed, Castelo suggested that the DoH could employ them as consultants and pay them salaries commensurate to Salary Grades 15 and 21, and not just P500 a day or P15,000 a month if they work every day.

“The DoH has a number of appropriations in its P42.2-billion allocation for maintenance and other operating expenses that it can use for such consultancy services. One item is P3 billion allocated precisely for the hiring of consultants,” she said.

Castelo added another item that could be tapped amounts to more than P500 million, which is for “other maintenance and operating expenses.”

“Clearly, the DOH has enough funds and leeway to give appropriate compensation to its volunteer doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers,” she said.

In a related development, Mindanao lawmakers led by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez urged the DoH to immediately designate more COVID-19 testing laboratories in their region. 

At the same time, Rodriguez and his colleagues asked the DoH to send test kits to designated testing facilities.

Rodriguez said they are proposing that all regional hospitals in Mindanao be accredited as test laboratories.

At present, he said only the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City has been designated as a testing laboratory.

He added that while the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro has been selected as a Covid-19 referral center, “up to now, it has no testing laboratory and no test kits.”

“The swab samples are still sent to Davao City, causing much delay,” he said.

Rodriguez said the immediate selection of more laboratories and deployment of test kits are in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization for the mass evaluation of suspected coronavirus carriers.

He pointed out that this is also the recommendation of various groups of businessmen, doctors, local leaders and other concerned citizens in Mindanao.

Romualdez stressed that the designation of regional testing centers would make Covid-19 examination accessible to the people of Mindanao and contribute immensely to preventing the spread of the virus.

“Many of our regions are far from Davao City like the Zamboanga area and the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” he said.

He said they have already sent their proposal to Health Sec. Francisco Duque lll and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.