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Duque considers tapping medical graduates without licenses yet to help in fight vs. COVID-19

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday expressed interest in tapping medical graduates to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) amid the exhaustion of the health care system.

On Monday, Senator Francis Tolentino proposed that the Department of Health (DOH) and the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) allow the medical graduates to practice even without passing the licensure exam.

“It is a very good recommendation and we are studying the specific provision of the law that we can implement as soon as possible,” Duque told GMA News Online in a text message.

Tolentino cited Section 12 of Republic Act No. 2382 or the Medical Act of 1959 stating that during pandemics or national emergencies, medical students can render services.

“Medical students who have completed the first four years of medical course, graduates of medicine, and registered nurses are allowed to render medical services upon authorization by the Secretary of Health without need of a certificate of registration."

Around 1,500 fresh graduates from medical schools took the Physician Licensure Examination administered by the PRC on March 8 and 9. The scheduled exams on March 15 and 16, however, have been postponed due to the COVID-19 threat.

The licensure examination should be waived so that the deployment of additional medical workforce to public hospitals may be facilitated immediately, Tolentino said.

He noted that most of these exam-takers are currently in Metro Manila.

The local government can also provide these medical graduates with honorarium or allowance, he added.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario earlier said some hospitals are already experiencing exhaustion of their healthcare system due to the COVID-19 threat.

Vergeire  said they have been receiving these reports particularly from private hospitals.

“Kahit wala pa po tayong imbentaryo, marami na tayong report na nakukuha na marami na pong hospital especially the private hospitals na nagkakaroon na ng exhaustion of their system,” she said.

According to Vergeire, health workers were either tired or under quarantine after attending to COVID-19 patients.

As of Monday afternoon, the DOH confirmed 462 cases of COVID-19 in the country including 33 fatalities.

The DOH is currently keeping track of the 606 persons under investigation (PUIs) and 6,321 persons under monitoring (PUMs). —KG, GMA News