Central Visayas sends 50 health workers to ‘NCR Plus’

Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon (The Freeman) - April 7, 2021 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  At least 50 healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, from Central Visayas will be deployed to the National Capital Region Plus today to help augment the hospital workforce there as COVID-19 numbers remain high.

The term “NCR Plus,” according to Malacañang, is composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite. The areas are under a “travel bubble,” which means residents cannot travel beyond the borders of the merged area.

In an advisory sent by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, 25 of the 50 healthcare workers will come from the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, broken down to five medical doctors and 20 nurses.

The other 25 – four doctors, two medical officers, four medtechs, and 15 nurses -- are hired by the Department of Health-Central Visayas Center for Health Development.

DOH-7 spokesperson and chief pathologist Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, in a virtual press conference, said that as of yesterday, the critical care utilization rate in Cebu City, where Central Visayas’ major hospitals are located, was 31.7 percent. This, she added, meant that the region still has a “very good case control.”

“With a critical care utilization rate of 31.7 percent, that is an amazing feat. We are again back on our feet,” Loreche said.

Loreche said that the target is to deploy 100 to 200 nurses to NCR Plus.

“But we cannot also drain our resources here because remember bag-o lang ta nag-Holy Week. I hope dili mosaka atong cases 14 days from today,” she said.

Asked when the healthcare workers would be pulled out, Loreche replied: “We will take it from there kung unsay mahitabo. We will evaluate every two weeks. As of the moment, it’s one month.”

Aside from today’s manpower deployment, DOH-7 sent 355 units of blood and blood products to the Philippine Blood Center last Friday to help those in dire need of blood. Today, another 200 units of blood and blood products, including convalescent plasma, are expected to be sent as well.

“We are one country at the end of the day. So we offer what we can to help them,” Loreche said.

Go’s call

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health, has called on health care workers from different parts of country with lower COVID-19 cases to be ready to assist in areas that have been saddled by rising coronavirus cases.

“We need to augment our medical frontliners in critical areas where a significant number of them have been overburdened. Salamat din po sa mga Cebuano, sa mga nurses po sa Visayas who expressed willingness to be deployed in NCR Plus areas,” Go said.

Go said the bayanihan spirit is still alive in the midst of a pandemic.

Critical areas in the NCR and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal are experiencing a significant rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. Hospitals and health facilities in the areas are experiencing difficulties coping with the crisis.

In response to this growing need, Go led the initiative to help augment medical personnel in NCR Plus areas, asking OPAV Secretary Michael Dino to send willing frontliners from the Visayas to assist in NCR Plus.

With OPAV’s help, Go is working together with regional Department of Health offices, local government units, hospitals with Malasakit Centers, and Project Balik Buhay (PBB) member-private hospitals to send volunteer medical frontliners to NCR Plus health facilities immediately.

The volunteer nurses and frontliners will receive an additional 20% premium on their basic salary for emergency hiring based on Bayanihan 2 funds.

Receiving hospitals will take care of their food, accommodation, and transportation after they arrive in Metro Manila. Their transfer to NCR, as well as necessary COVID-19 testing, will be shouldered by the DOH.

Meanwhile, the DOH Center for Health and Development in Ilocos Region is also planning to dispatch volunteer nurses and doctors to assist fellow frontliners in NCR Plus. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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