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Solons back proposal to form Medical Reserve Corps

 

By CHARISSA L. ATIENZA

 

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LAWMAKERS on Wednesday backed the proposal to establish the Medical Reserve Corps to augment the country’s human health resources in times of disasters and heath emergencies.

Negros Oriental Rep. Manuel Sagarbarria,  Siquijor Rep. Jake Vincent Villa, and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez  rallied behind the passage of House Bill No. 7007 or the proposed “Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2020” principally authored by House Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte.

“I will support the measure. This is timely,” Sagarbarria said.

Sagarbarria said HB 7007 should be supported as he agreed with Villafuerte’s observation that the  lack of medical personnel here is “a key weakness” in the government’s battle against COVID-19 pandemic.

Villa backed Villafuerte’s bill, saying  that such medical reserve force would help ease the burden in the country’s healthcare system, especially in times of health emergencies.

Rodriguez said HB 7007 “is very timely,” considering the country’s ongoing battle against COVID-19.

“The Medical Reserve Corps will enlist civic minded medical practitioners in the entire country. We certainly have a large pool of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals in all provinces and cities in our country. They can be called upon to serve in times of public health emergency, such as this COVID-19  and future epidemics,” he said.

“Once they are called to serve, they should be properly remunerated similar to rates of our regular Department of Health (DoH) personnel with hazard pay and additional risk allowance. This bill is very timely considering our ongoing battle against COVID-19,” Rodriguez said.

Davao del Norte Rep. and former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said HB 7007 should be consolidated with the bill seeking to make the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program mandatory in all public and private educational institutions.

“Puwede na siguro isama sa pending ROTC bill ‘yan (It can be included in the pending ROTC bill),” he said.

The House Committee on Basic Education and Culture and House Committee on Higher and Technical Education jointly formed a Technical Working Group to consolidate 32 mandatory ROTC measures last Feb. 12.

House Bill No. 7007 seeks to establish a Medical Reserve Corps which shall be composed of all persons who have degrees in medicine, nursing, medical technology, and other health-related fields but have yet to have their respective licenses to practice.

Villafuerte said under his bill, in times of national emergencies and other contingencies, the members of the Medical Reserve Corps may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government, its agencies and instrumentalities, and the local government in their functions related to addressing the medical needs of the public.

“This measure  allows our hospitals and medical facilities to handle the extreme demand for patient care in times of disaster and health emergencies,” he said.

HB 7007 provides that the Health Secretary shall initiate the mobilization, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Departments of National Defense (DND),  Education (DepEd), and Interior and Local Government (DILG) or their duly authorized representatives with a rank of at least undersecretary.

The bill tasks the DoH to evaluate the requests for deployment.

When the number of personnel requested does not exceed 150 and the period of deployment does not exceed 60 days, the DoH shall decide whether to approve or disapprove the request within 24 hours from receipt of such request, the bill provides.

“When the  number of personnel requested exceeds 150 or the period of deployment exceeds 60 days, the DoH shall made a recommendation to the Office of the President (OP) within 24 hours from receipt of the request. The OP shall decide whether to approve or disapprove the request within 24 hours from receipt of the recommendation of the DoH,” it said.

After the request for deployment is approved, the DoH is tasked to issue an Order of Deployment requiring the Corps, or a number of them, to assist the national government.

Under HB 7007, in case of a declaration of a state of war, state of lawless violence, or state of calamity, the DoH may motu proprio recommend the mobilization of the Corps to the President of the Philippines.

The bill also empowers the Chief Executive 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.

For those who fail to respond to the order of deployment despite notices sent to the address and or contact details on file with the DOH without any justifiable reason shall, upon the conviction by a civil court,  be slapped with the following penalties: 120 hours of community service for first offense; 240 hours of community service for second offense; and six months of imprisonment and 480 hours of community service for third and subsequent offenses.

Villafuerte’s bill seeks the establishment of mobilization centers in each province and city as needed according to the number and geographical distribution of the Corps, where they will report in case of deployment.

The bill also calls for the setting up of a Medical Reserve Corps Fund, which will be exclusively used for the implementation of the proposed Act.

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