DOH urged to rethink transfer of rural doctors to Cebu City
This September 7, 2018 photo from the Doctors to the Barrios Facebook page shows rural doctors in the field
Doctors to the Barrios Facebook page

DOH urged to rethink transfer of rural doctors to Cebu City

(Philstar.com) - June 28, 2020 - 9:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — Physicians in the Doctors to the Barrios program cannot be reassigned without prior consent from the program and the local government unit that they are assigned to under a memorandum of agreement, the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines said Sunday.

Doing so would also deprive communities in Geograhically Isolated and Depressed Areas (GIDAs) of access to medical care that the DTTB program is meant to provide.

The association, in a statement on the heels of a separate statement from two batches of the DTTB program made public earlier Sunday, said it "strongly opposes" the directive to have the DTTB physicians transferred to augment medical workers in Cebu City.

Cebu City is under enhanced community quarantine and its hospitals and health workers have been overwhelmed by the increase in COVID-19 cases there.

"The medical doctors/[Municipal Health Officers]/[Rural Health Practitioners] who are to be deployed on June 30, 2020 to September 5, 2020 to Cebu City are covered by
their respective Memorandum of Agreement entered into with LGUs represented by the Local Chief Executives as authorized by their Sanggunian and the Department of Health," the association said, stressing that the doctors are already bound by those MOAs.

AMHOP said that while it recognizes the need to augment health resources in high-risk areas like Cebu City, rural doctors should not be denied due process and their freedom to decide on whether they want to be reassigned. 

"Based on gathered information, no consultations were made prior to the issuance," AMHOP said, pointing out that the doctors have just four days from the release of the Department of Health directive on June 26 to report to Cebu City.

The association also stressed that the Doctors to the Barrios program is meant to address the need for medical workers in rural areas and that their depoloyment to augment private hospitals in Cebu "was not contemplated to what has been set out in the MOA and runs afoul to the very purpose of the DTTB program."

As also pointed out by the DTTB batches earlier Sunday, AMHOP said that reassigning the doctors "will leave the communities with less health workforce and in effect make them more vulnerable." 

"It is to be noted that they are sent to the barrios primarily because there are few doctors in rural areas to begin with, even fewer in public health," AMHOP also said.

It said that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the law that gave the executive branch broad powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic, already called for the hiring of additional medical personnel, as it urged the DOH to reconsider the directive.

In April, the Department of Budget and Management approved a DOH request "for the engagement of an additional 15,757 healthcare professionals under contract of service for a period of three months."

AMHOP said: "Every province, city and municipality needs all the help they can get in order to address COVID-19. The role that DTTBs has in response to pandemic in areas where they are assigned cannot be diminished through an autocratic and unbridled directive from the agency that so aims to protect every health worker who stands in our frontlines against COVID-19."

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