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PMA exec: No shortage of doctors in Philippines but PPEs lacking amid COVID-19 emergency

The Philippines has enough doctors in its arsenal but the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a major challenge for the medical workforce in their fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to an official of the Philippine Medical Association on Wednesday.

"Ang doktor natin sa Pilipinas ay umaabot ng 120,000 bukod dito yung mga nasa ibang bansa. Ang miyembro ng Philippine Medical Association ay composed of 83,000," PMA Vice President Dr. Benito Atienza said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

"Ang kailangan lang ng mga doktor 'yung protektsyon, 'yung personal protective equipment. 'Yun lang ang hiling namin. Maraming gustong mag-duty," he added.

He noted that additional hazard pay is also important for the health care workers.

Atienza said that some hospitals are already implementing rotation schemes to protect their workforce from contracting the virus.

The PMA is also helping public and private hospitals to procure additional medical equipment, he added.

"Kami na 'yung kumukuha ng orders ng mga iba-ibang component societies namin, iba-ibang organization. Tinutulungan namin para bulk ang makuha namin," he said.

Meanwhile, Atienza said that graduates of medicine without licenses but would volunteer for COVID-19 response shall still be supervised by doctors.

Several doctors in the country have succumbed to COVID-19 after being exposed to the virus while in the line of duty.

COVID-19 Dashboard: Summary of Cases in the Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday signed the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" which has specific provisions for the compensation and benefits of medical workers amid the health emergency.

Under the said law, all public health workers must be given a “COVID-19 special risk allowance,” in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of the Public Health Workers or Republic Act No. 7305.

Public and private health workers shall also receive a compensation of P100,000 each should they contract "severe" COVID-19 while in the line of duty.

Medical workers who died while performing their duties to combat the spread of COVID-19 shall be entitled to P1 million each. This provision has a retroactive application from February 1, 2020.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines stands at 552, fatalities at 35 and for recoveries, 20.

Meanwhile, 704 people have tested negative for the disease.

The online COVID-19 tracker of the DOH shows that they have so far conducted 1,793 tests, with 615 persons under investigation and 6,321 under monitoring. — RSJ, GMA News