DEPUTY Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, who has authored one of the 11 bills to be harmonized by the TWG, said the lack of medical personnel during the initial stages of the country’s fight against the unprecedented coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) contagion has “underscored the urgency of establishing a medical reserve corps to ensure that the healthcare system is never overwhelmed during emergencies.”
The issue that was extensively discussed during last week’s committee hearing on the proposed MRC was whether the reserve corps should be composed solely of licensed medical practitioners, or if graduates of four-year medical courses should also be included, he said.
Villafuerte’s version as outlined under House Bill (HB) 7007 provides that all graduates with degrees in the fields of medicine, nursing and other related fields who have not yet secured their licenses to practice be required to join the MRC.
But other proposals call for only licensed medical professionals to join the reserve force.
President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Congress in his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 27 to set up the MRC.
“We hail our health professionals as heroes. Now is the time to pass the Advanced Nursing Education Act and the law instituting the Medical Reserve Corps,” the President said in his fifth SONA.
Villafuerte also authored HB 7281, which seeks reforms in nursing education, including the introduction of basic and postgraduate programs that would train and encourage nurses to work in communities and seek leadership or management positions in their profession in local hospitals instead of leaving for overseas jobs.
Under Villafuerte’s bill, members of the medical reserve corps may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national and local governments in their functions related to addressing the urgent needs of the country’s healthcare system during times of crises.
“This bill seeks to uphold the role of medical and health-related personnel in nation-building. Being involved in the frontlines of a public health emergency is a patriotic act, and the reserve corp’s vital role necessitate that their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being are protected,” Villafuerte said.
Villafuerte is the lead author of the House version of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, as well as the follow-up Bayanihan to Recover as One bill or Bayanihan 2, which is now up for the President’s signature.
He is a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) monitoring the implementation of the Bayanihan Law and co-chairman of the social amelioration cluster of the House Ad Hoc Committee to Defeat COVID-19 (DCC), which is co-chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez.