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Duque denies waiver clearing DOH of responsibility if volunteer nurses get virus

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday said that there was no waiver that volunteer nurses were asked to sign clearing the Department of Health (DOH) of responsibility should they contract coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while at work.

During the virtual meeting of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee, Duque said that they do not see such a waiver in the contract of service that volunteer nurses were asked to sign.

"Natanong sa akin yan kamakailan lang, bakit daw may waiver na kung nagkasakit sila ng COVID ay hindi nila pwedeng habulin ang DOH. Wala kaming nakikitang ganun sa contract of service nila," he said.

"Pakita lang sa amin kung saan nakalagay ito at ating tutugunan ito," he added.

Maristela Abenojar, president of the group Filipino Nurses United, was quoted in a news report as saying that there was no employer-employee relationship between the DOH and the volunteer nurses, and that they were made to sign such a waiver.

This is the reason why they want volunteer nurses to be hired instead with security of tenure, the group said.

Duque said that he has no problems with hiring health workers, adding that emergency hiring has already commenced.

"The first 800, more or less, healthcare workers of different cadres, doctors, nurses, medtechs, have already been approved by [Department of Budget and Management] on a contract of service mode or nature of employment. Kasama rito, may 20% premium pa nga sila over and above the regular that their counterparts receive," he said.

Duque added that should there be more permanent positions available, it is likely that the volunteer nurses would be given priority in hiring.

"Posible na kapag nangailangan tayo ng mga karagdagang healthcare professionals, sila ang uunahin natin. Ip-prioritize natin sila kapag nagkaroon tayo ng more permanent positions," he said. — Erwin Colcol/BM, GMA News