As the country’s need for medical personnel grows due to the increasing number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go filed a bill seeking to assemble a group of medical and health-related professionals who will help the government respond to medical and health care needs during national emergencies.
Senate Bill No. 1451, also known as the “Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020,” seeks to establish a Medical Reserve Corps composed of all persons who have degrees in the field of medicine, nursing, medical technology, and other health-related fields but have yet to have their respective licenses to practice for reasons such as, but not limited to, not having taken and/or passed the licensure examinations in their respective professions.
In his explanatory note, Go states that the increasing COVID-19 cases “overwhelmed both private and public hospitals in the country and their medical personnel are strained by the number of COVID-19 patients and Persons Under Investigations in their facilities.”
He adds that “the lack of medical personnel in the midst of pandemic disease hinders the State’s capacity to combat the disease immediately and effectively.”
Invoking the patriotism of Filipino healthcare workers, the Senator hopes for the bill to uphold the role of medical and health-related personnel in nation-building; promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being; further inculcate in them patriotism and nationalism; and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.
If passed into law, the members of the Medical Reserve Corps may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government and the local government units when addressing the medical needs of the public in times of national emergencies.
The mobilization will be initiated by the Secretary of Health, in coordination with the Secretaries of of National Defense, Education, and Interior and Local Government.
To maintain and enhance the level of competence and have them ready for mobilization, the bill likewise provides for retraining the members of the Corps.
In case of a declaration of a state of war, state of lawless violence or state of calamity, the DOH may also recommend to the President the mobilization of the Corps.
The President of the Philippines also has the power to order the mobilization of the Corps to respond to national or local contingencies related to external and territorial defense, internal security and peace and order and/or disaster risk reduction management.
The members of the Corps may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government, its agencies and instrumentalities, and the local government units in their functions related to addressing the medical needs of the public through requests for deployment by the heads of such national government agencies or local government units submitted to the DOH.
In case of mobilization, the equipment of the Corps will be supplied in close coordination with the DOH and other national agencies and offices, with the end in view of achieving rapid mobilization. There will also be established mobilization centers in each province and city as many as needed according to the number and geographical distribution of the Corps, where they will report in case of deployment.
Meanwhile, the DOH will be tasked to regularly publish an annual report containing a list of its accomplishments, status of its operations, number and demography of the Medical Reserve Corps, assessment of readiness for mobilization and the incidence and details of each mobilization for the year concerned.
As for members of the Corps already employed upon deployment, such deployment will not be a ground for dismissal or diminution of any benefit enjoyed by such graduates prior to their deployment. The members of the Corps will also be entitled to their regular wage or salary during the period of their deployment, should they be employed at the time of deployment.
Under the proposed measure, a Medical Reserve Corps Fund will also be established exclusively for the implementation of the objectives and purposes of the bill. The Office of the President will be tasked to monitor and evaluate the activities and the balances of the Fund.
The Senator then mentioned that the proposed measure will complement the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program of the government as the proposed Medical Reserve Corps will be designed to become responsive to the needs of all Filipinos, wherever in the country they may be.
“This measure seeks to help local government units all over the country in need of assistance. Kaya naman po the bill proposes for the creation of mobilization centers in each province and city as many as needed based on the number and geographical distribution of the Corps, where they will report in case of deployment,” he said.
Emphasizing the need for the military and health sector to collaborate in times of global pandemics, Go said, “Sa mga large-scale health emergencies gaya ng COVID-19, malaking bagay po na magtulungan ang military at health sector upang mas maging epektibo ang ating efforts para makapagserbisyo sa ating mga kababayan.”
“Bibigyan din po nito ng oportunidad ang mga Pilipino, lalo na ang ating mga healthcare professionals, na magserbisyo sa kanilang kapwa Pilipino at makapagsilbi sa kanilang bayan,” he ended.