After receiving massive backlash for its plan to redeploy Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) to Cebu City, considered as the country’s likely new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,  the Department of Health (DOH) said Tuesday that DTTBs to be assigned in Cebu will on a “voluntary basis”.

Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said those wanting to be assigned to Cebu will be prioritized.

“Iyong sa DTTB deployment po, iyong willing po at amendable, those are who are going to be deployed. Para po mapabilis, voluntary po muna,” Vergeire said.

Vergeire said they initially wanted to deploy 40 doctors from DTTB to Cebu City divided in four batches and on two-week rotation, but the figure is a moving target amid the concerns raised by group.

“Sa pakikipag-usap natin sa kanila, meron pong tatlong buntis, at may ibang areas na walang maiiwan na doktor. As of last Sunday, we were looking at 26. And with the turn of events, it was decided na voluntary muna and we are finalizing kung ilan talaga ang ready to be deployed,” she said.

The DTTB issued a strongly worded condemnation for a Department of Health (DOH) order to temporarily transfer rural health physicians in Regions VI and VI to private hospitals in Cebu City to augment the current manpower in health facilities dealing with COVID-19.

The DTTB calls the DOH order an “abrupt exploitative” order.

The DTTB denounced the directive due to the following reasons: (1) the involved doctors have not been suitably informed through writing, (2) no proper consultation with the stakeholders was done prior to this directive, (3) detailed guidelines and protocols to protect the doctors in this temporary reassignment are not provided, and (4) it contradicts the thrust of the DTTB Program.

The DTTB added that the directive of reassigning public doctors to private hospitals is also a clear violation of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers. According to Republic Act 7305, also known as the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, Sec. 6. Transfer or Geographical Reassignment of Public health Workers:
“(c) a public health worker shall NOT be transferred and or reassigned, except when made in the interest of public service, in which case, the employee concerned shall be informed of the reasons therefore in writing.”

Vergeire said the Health Department wanted to “exhaust our programs because there was a need, may cry for help.”

“It is quite disheartening kasi nasa public emergency tao at sana iyong commitment ng government workers are there. But nevertheless, nakapag-decide tayo na this will be voluntary para walang issue for the meantime,” she added.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to oversee the government’ COVID-19 response in Cebu says Cebu City currently has over 5,000 COVID-19 cases and has been registering 10 to 13 COVID-19 deaths per day.   (Rommel F. Lopez)