Duterte OKs limited physical classes in medicine, allied health programs
Health workers of St. Jude Family Hospital in Los Baños, Laguna receive on March 25, 2020 donated personal protective equipment from different business sectors in the province.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

Duterte OKs limited physical classes in medicine, allied health programs

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - January 26, 2021 - 2:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Limited physical classes for students in medical and health-allied programs are set to resume with President Rodrigo Duterte's approval, Palace said Tuesday.

In-person learning for universities much like the rest throughout the country had been called off for nearly a year now due to the coronavirus pandemic, with schools taking its classes online that had often spelled difficulty for many.

In a regular briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the training of would-be doctors and medical personnel has to continue despite the health crisis.

"You can't second guess the president," he said. "If we don't push through it with, there will come a time when we don't have medicine graduates and during a pandemic, we need all the doctors we can have," he added in Filipino.

The development was first reported by GMA News' "24 Oras" on January 25, where Chairman Prospero de Vera III of the Commission on Higher Education said Duterte had given the go signal for their proposal.

Scant details have been given so far with no formal announcement yet from the commission. But on Tuesday afternoon, De Vera said coming up with the guidelines took five months and was evaluated by the office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

"The final guidelines that CHED will soon issue incorporates the details of the approval of the Office of the Preisdent like the courses covered, age of students, inspection and approval of [the commission]," he said, as relayed by a media relations officer in an exchange with Philstar.com.

In the report, the CHED chairman said too that the recommendation covers areas under modified general community quarantine, as well as students in GCQ areas where their institutions have a COVID-19 designated hospital.

Most of the country is now under MGQC, while Metro Manila and nine other areas remain in GCQ.

Among universities De Vera named that were approved for physical classes were University of the Philippines in Manila, Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela, and as well as Ateneo de Manila in Quezon City.

The approval comes months after the coronavirus task force in October 2020 approved the face-to-face medical internship at UP Manila's Philippine General Hospital. 

From there, three interns and a clerk have so far contracted the COVID-19, per UP Medicine's dean, adding that transmission is more likely in communities than in hospitals. 

"That we already established, because we did more than 11,000 testing for healthcare workers within PGH," said Dr. Charlotte Chiong in GMA's report.

While such is the case for students in the said programs, the possibility of having in-person classes for others, including those in the K-12, remains unclear.

The education department was supposed to conduct a pilot run on face-to-face learning in schools this January after the Duterte Cabinet's approval, only for it to be rescinded by the president due to the threat of the new coronavirus variant.

Classes have largely been carried out online, with other mediums such as television and radio tapped along with printed modules, but the learning setup has birthed to difficulties with Palace even concedeing that it is far from ideal.

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