DOH says deployment of doctors to Cebu ‘voluntary’

AFTER physicians appealed their reassignment to private hospitals in Cebu City under the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program, the Department of Health (DOH) said deployment will now be voluntary.

“It’s no longer going to be mandatory. We have also prepared already where they will stay, where we will be deploying them,” DOH 7 spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche said in a virtual press briefing Monday, June 29, 2020.

As of June 29, Loreche said they have received requests for 15 doctors to augment the healthcare workers in private hospitals. They were still waiting for other hospital to send their request for augmentation.

The DOH revised its directive mandating DTTB batches 36 (Alab) and 37 (Mandala) to report to Cebu City after the two batches issued a joint statement complaining that they were not consulted nor informed in writing about their sudden reassignment.

Doctors assigned in Western Visayas were directed to report to Cebu City from June 30 to September 5, while those from Central Visayas were ordered to report from June 26 to July 30.

The affected doctors said there were no detailed guidelines on the reassignment.

They added that it contradicts the purpose of the DTTB program, which is to deploy doctors in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas, and is a “clear violation of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers”.

Section 6 of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers states that “a public health worker shall not be transferred and or reassigned, except when made in the interest of public service, in which case, the employee concerned shall be informed of the reasons therefore in writing.”

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a separate virtual briefing Monday, said the agency “acted within the bounds of its authority” when it issued the directive.

She said the deployment is anchored on Proclamation 922, which declared a state of public health emergency in the country, and is part of the government’s current Cebu-centered response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

She said this temporary reassignment is not new as DTTBs were previously deployed to areas with similar emergency situations such as the Marawi siege and Typhoon Yolanda.

Vergeire said a dialog was being held with the doctors who have refused the assignment.

In a statement, the DOH said those who will be sent to Cebu City are rural health physicians, not municipal health officers.

This means that “municipalities will not be left doctorless during their assignment and health care services will continue.”

The agency said DTTBs will be provided with roundtrip transportation, statutory allowances, actual hazard duty pay, accommodations and incidental expenses during their deployment as well as during post-deployment quarantine. (JJL and SunStar Philippines)