THE government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte has barred Filpino health workers from leaving the country while it battles the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic that has sickened almost 4,000 people.
In an order dated April 2, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended the deployment of doctors and nurses while the country is in a state of national emergency.
Also covered by the ban are microbiologists, molecular biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory and X-ray technicians, nursing aids, medical equipment operators, health supervisors and hospital equipment repair men.
POEA also suspended negotiations for government-to-government deployment of health workers.
The Philippines was 290,000 short of health workers last year, which was aggravated by the migration of 13,000 health professionals, POEA said, citing a Human Resources for Health Network (HRHN) report.
“The country’s health facilities, personnel and other resources are under severe strain due to the rising number of persons affected by the COVID-19,” according to the order.
The Department of Health on Wednesday reported 106 more COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 3,870. Five more patients died, raising the death toll to 182, it said in a bulletin. Twelve more patients recovered, bringing the total of those who have gotten well to 96, it added.
Beverly Lorraine C. Ho, the Health secretary’s special assistant, said 252 health workers had tested positive for COVID-19, 152 of them doctors and 63 nurses. At least 12 have died, she told a news briefing.
There are now 11 testing laboratories in the country — nine government and two private facilities, while seven other hospitals were undergoing certification to be allowed to test samples.
Ms. Ho said the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. would cover all expenses of COVID-19 patients. Patients who were admitted between February 1 and April 14 and paid their hospital bills may get their payments reimbursed by PhilHealth. Those who will be admitted starting April 15 — the start of the expanded testing — will have their expenses covered by PhilHealth using a new case rate benefit package.
Mr. Duterte on March 16 ordered that Luzon be locked down, suspending classes, work and public transportation to contain the pandemic. He extended the month-long lockdown by two more weeks until April 30.
Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government asked local governments to prepare isolation facilities as mass testing for the virus starts. Infections are expected to rise as more people get tested, hence the need for the facilities, Interior Undersecretary Jonathan E. Malaya said at a news briefing. The centers will also house patients who have mild or no symptoms of the disease, he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan, Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Gillian M. Cortez