'Reinforcement needed': Gov't told to hire more doctors, nurses amid Delta variant threat

'Reinforcement needed': Gov't told to hire more doctors, nurses amid Delta variant threat
Pedestrians walk past a tribute mural for frontliners painted by Angono artists at the triage area of the Mission Hospital in Pasig City on June 15, 2021.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Joel Villanueva on Friday called on the government to step up its hiring of health personnel amid the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country. 

Local transmission of the Delta variant was confirmed by the Department of Health on Thursday night. Metro Manila was reverted to a stricter general community quarantine with heightened restrictions as a result. 

Villanueva in a statement said the government should give the DOH the funds needed to "go on a hiring binge." 

The country can start addressing staffing shortages, he added, by hiring the 5,008 passers of the nurses' licensure examination held earlier this month.

The 1,234 doctors who passed their licensure tests in May should be hired too, the senator said. 

“Kailangan na ng reinforcements ang ating mga frontline[r]s. (Our frontliners need reinforcements now)," Villanueva said. "We’ve spent 16 months fighting this pandemic, and the unseen enemy has been mutating into more dangerous strain." 

He also emphasized that the frontlines should also be “paid what is due them on time and in full" to boost morale. 

Villanueva cited data as of 2020 that showed some 30,396 nurses working in public hospitals and 24,969 in primary health care facilities such as Rural Health Units in towns.

“This comes up to about 5 nurses per 10,000,” he said. 

The DOH was granted a P61.14 billion payroll budget in 2020. Villanueva said the figure does not cover personnel in hospitals and health centers run by local governments. 

The agency also has a P16.7 billion budget for its health personnel deployment programs which assigns doctors, nurses, midwives and other health workers to underserved localities.

A total of 47 cases of the Delta variant have been detected in the Philippines — 33 of which were classified as "local." Three deaths due to the variant have also been recorded. 

The Philippines has the second-worst outbreak of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, trailing Indonesia with 1.53 million cases and 26,891 deaths as of Thursday. — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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