MANILA – Doctors who volunteered to serve in rural areas in the Western and Central Visayas regions are opposing an order to pull them out of their assigned municipalities and transfer them to private hospitals in Cebu City, which is undergoing one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.
In a joint position paper released Sunday, Doctor to the Barrios (DTTB) Batches 36 (ALAB) and 37 (MANDALA) criticized what they call an “abrupt exploitative order” to transfer doctors.
According to the group, the doctors involved were not suitably informed of the said transfer. There was also no proper consultation with the stakeholders, and no detailed guidelines to protect the doctors were not provided.
The group also argued that the transfer of barrio doctors is against the thrust of the DTTB program.
“The absence of proper communication, justifying the temporary reassignment of rural health physicians serving in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) to serve in private hospitals in Cebu City is a clear violation of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. This reassignment shall be made, ultimately, in the interest of public service,” the group said.
They likewise said the local government units served by the doctors involved should have been informed and consulted prior to the directive.
“The DTTBs and the local chief executives should have been represented in decision-making involving this temporary reassignment. Failing to do so makes such directives exploitative for doctors and inconsiderate for the communities that they serve. There is complete disregard to the concerns of the doctors and the local chief executives,” they explained.
Without consultation, the involved doctors were not given enough information as to their safety, protection, lodging, insurance and specific duties upon their transfer.
“No clear information regarding the DTTB’s safety, protection, lodging, insurance, and specific duties have been provided. The likelihood that the services rendered by public servants will be abused by private institutions increases because of the lack of clear guidelines for their protection,” their statement said.
The doctor volunteers added that no proof of agreement between private institutions and the DOH was made available for discussion among all parties involved.
The group reiterated that the Doctor to the Barrios Program was created in 1993 to address the need for doctors in rural communities, and removing a barrio doctor from a municipality “will deprive healthcare to thousands of Filipinos in already marginalized communities.”
“If we further clip the already short human resources for health in GIDAs, we perpetuate the existing inequities in access to healthcare that the DTTB program wishes to address,” the group said.
“If the goal of this reassignment is to address the overwhelmed capacity of private hospitals in Cebu City, the DTTBs are in a position to help decongest hospitals by providing primary care in our communities. We are your gatekeepers in the barrios. Our duty here is crucial if we, as a nation, truly intend to Heal As One. Let us not allow the disadvantaged communities to suffer from the loss of their rural health physicians at a time when they are needed the most,” they added.
The Department of Health Region 6 earlier said at least 40 doctors from Western Visayas will be transferred to private hospitals in Cebu City as the it battles the pandemic.
Of this number, 9 are from the DTTB program.
– With a report from Cherry Palma, ABS-CBN News