The Department of Health (DOH) should hire more healthcare workers, especially doctors, instead of pulling Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) assigned in remote areas of the country and bring them to Cebu City where cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection are rising.

“Naiintindihan ko na ngayong panahon ng pandemya ay nangangailangan ng mas maraming doktor, pero salungat sa Doctors to the Barrios o DTTB program ang kanilang redeployment sa mga pribadong ospital sa Cebu,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

Hontiveros was reacting to a DOH order reassigning DTTB batches 36-ALAB and 37-MANDALA, rural health physicians currently assigned Region’s VI and VII,  to unspecified private hospitals in Cebu City, leaving their local municipalities behind with less manpower or worse, without a doctor.

The DTTB issued a strong condemnation of what it calls the “abrupt exploitative” order to transfer its doctors.

The relocation order was only supported by a request letter addressed to the Undersecretary of Health for Field Implementation and Coordination Team (FICT) for Visayas and Mindanao and an unsigned advanced copy of an office order.

She stressed that the DTTB’s main objective is to provide quality and primary healthcare to marginalized, unserved and hard-to-reach communities in poor municipalities, be it during normal times or even in a pandemic. These doctors, she said, have already answered the call of duty by serving areas that do not have a doctor.

Hontiveros said that she is calling on the DOH not to redeploy DTTBs currently assigned in poor and remote communities because doing so would deprive these communities of a doctor who would help them against COVID-19 and other diseases.

“The DOH should, instead, heed our previous call of hiring more healthcare workers and doctors. Bakit kailangan ng re-deployment sa pribadong hospital kung kaya namang mag-emergency hiring at kumuha ng consultant para sa short-term services? DOH should ramp up emergency hiring of health professionals to augment Human Resources for health for deployment in hospital and community health setting.”

“Hangga’t maaari, huwag na natin ilagay sa alanganin ang kalusugan ng mga nasa malalayong komunidad. We should improve access to healthcare in our far-flung areas and communities and not further limit it,” she added. (Rommel F. Lopez)