President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday appealed to the medical personnel of the police and the military to help hospitals that are struggling with the influx of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“I am ordering the medical corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, if you are listening to me now, please place your human resources ready, on deck,” Duterte said in his prerecorded Talk to the People.
Duterte made the appeal to the medical corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), as he lamented that the Covid-19 situation in the country is taking a toll on health workers’ health.
Duterte said it is more difficult now for public and private hospitals to deal with the pandemic, considering the current high number of Covid-19 cases.
He hoped that medical personnel of AFP and PNP would help hospitals attend to the needs of coronavirus-stricken patients.
“We have a dearth of supply of the human resource,” Duterte said. “Our healthcare workers are getting sick. Our hospitals are being filled to the brim, and more of our people are getting sick and dying from Covid-19.”
Duterte said he is asking for the help of the police and military because he can “easily count on them”.
“I have to use a little of my influence sa kanila (to them) to convince them to ano (help in the fight against Covid-19). I do not want to order na ganoon, kasi pangit ‘yan eh (because that’s not good). Makikiusap lang ako na tulungan ang mga kababayan natin (I am just asking for help),” Duterte said.
Military nurses ready to help
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, meanwhile, said he expects the military to deploy nurses in Metro Manila hospitals which are badly hit by personnel shortage.
Speaking to Duterte, the DND chief said the Army, Navy, and Air Force are now looking for their nurses deployed in the provinces for possible deployment.
“At patuloy pa silang mangangalap sa mga probinsiya, sa mga services, Army, Navy, Air Force kung puwede pa silang magbigay ng mga nurses. At sa tingin ko po, Mr. President, sa mga darating na araw ay magkakaroon pa tayo ng mga nurses na puwede nating ipahiram sa mga hospitals sa Maynila (The military services, Army, Navy, and Air Force are now combing their units in the provinces for spare nurses which can be tapped for deployment. I think, Mr. President, in the coming days, we will have military nurses which we can lend to the hospitals in Metro Manila),” Lorenzana said.
He added that he earlier met with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III regarding the shortage of nurses at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.
Lorenzana said he immediately ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines Surgeon General to look for military nurses in the services that could be deployed.
“Ang Surgeon General po, Mr. President, at saka ‘yung in charge ng St. Luke’s ay nag-uusap na, at kaninang hapon ay agarang nagpadala ng dalawang nurses ang Surgeon General sa St. Luke’s (The Surgeon General, Mr. President and the one in charge of St. Luke’s have met and talked and this (Wednesday) afternoon, two nurses were deployed by the Surgeon General in St. Luke’s),” he added.
In the same Talk to the People, National Task Force Against Covid-19 deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon said the reported incidents of big hospitals closing down their Covid-19 wards due to lack of health workers is “very worrisome”.
Healthcare workers have expressed exhaustion amid the Covid-19 crisis as they work for longer hours as some of their colleagues contracted the virus.
“This is I think is our biggest challenge now, Mr. President. We have to understand as the numbers show, we are not out of the woods of Delta variant or even if there seems to be a decline—slight decline in cases, these cases are still very high. And our hospitals are still overburdened,” Dizon said.
According to the Department of Health (DOH), 70 percent of Covid-19 beds were occupied and 78 percent of intensive care unit (ICU) beds were utilized as of Tuesday.
Dizon said the government has to step up efforts to help and assist hospitals, including the private ones.
“But the most worrisome problem is the healthcare workers getting sick, Mr. President,” he added.
As of September 13, some 24,284 healthcare workers tested positive for Covid-19—366 are active cases while 23,814 have recovered. Deaths due to Covid-19 among health workers reached 104.
“We really need to augment and help them and really assist our hospitals as much as we can,” Dizon said.
Recruitment of new health workers
In a virtual presser held Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Roque said the government is also hiring additional medical front-liners who will help in the country’s fight against Covid-19.
Roque said the recruitment of new health workers is underway to address manpower shortage in hospitals amid the prevailing pandemic.
“Nagkakaroon din po tayo ng malawakang pagre-recruit ng health professionals… Ongoing po ang ating recruitment (We are having a massive recruitment of health professionals… The recruitment is ongoing),” he said.
On September 15, Duterte vowed to look for funding sources to tap additional health workers like doctors and nurses. (PNA)