Idle ships as hospitals

March 27, 2020

We’re getting back-to-back cheap but practical and sensible ideas from a freshman senator but a veteran public servant.

And the long-suffering public should appreciate his inputs because they are both pragmatic and cost-effective.

In short, they would get the job done at great savings and maximum benefits for taxpayers    

And so we agree with and fully support Sen. Francis Tolentino in calling  on the Department of Transportation to consider using vacant passenger ships as hospitals or temporary medical facilities amid the rising cases of coronavirus disease  in the country.

“Given that a passenger ship’s capacity can reach up to 1, 200 passengers and since these are available now, with most of these vacant and docked in the Port of Manila, due to the travel restrictions, allowing these vessels to be used as temporary medical facilities will address the shortage of hospital spaces and will ease the burden of our hospitals and our health workers,” Tolentino said in a letter to Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade.

He said the move is in line with the recent enactment of the Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which empowers President Rodrigo Duterte to utilize passenger ships as quarantine hospitals due to the current shortage of hospital beds.

He also cited Sec. 24 of Republic Act No.or the Domestic Shipping Development Act of 2004 as another basis for his proposal.

RA 9295 provides that “the State may temporarily take over or direct the operations or any vessel engaged in domestic trade and commerce, or prescribe its rates or routes of operation, in a state of national emergency and when required by public interest, under reasonable terms prescribed by it.”

In his proposal, Tolentino said at least three passenger vessels, one for each main island of the country, should be used as mobile hospitals after a number of private hospitals in Metro Manila recently declared that they have reached full capacity.

“This is to immediately alleviate the situation, in coordination with the Department of Health, by providing the three passenger vessels – one for Luzon (Manila Port), Visayas (Cebu Port) and Mindanao (Davao Port) to serve as hospital ships,” the former chairman of trhe Metro Manila Development Authority and  long-time mayor of Tagaytay City  said.

“It is better if we utilize the ships which are just probably docked so that they can be used by health workers as hospitals or temporary residence),” the lawmaker added.

Ear;ier, Tolentino called on the Department of Health to authorize more than 1,500 medical school graduates to render medical services without having them finish their licensure examinations so that they can be immediately deployed as the country strengthens its fight against Covid-19.

“During epidemics and national emergencies, the secretary of the DOH can authorize graduates of medical schools to render medical services without a certificate of registration as provided for in Sec. 12 of Republic Act 2382 or the Medical Act of 1959,” Tolentino said in a letter addressed to Health Sec. Francisco Duque III.

He noted that around 1,524 new medicine graduates have already taken the first two parts of the Physician Licensure Examination scheduled on March 8, 9, 15 and 16, 2020.

The two latter dates have been postponed by the Professional Regulation Commission on March 11 due to the pandemic.

“It is urged that these graduates from all the medical schools in the Philippines be authorized to practice medicine and to be registered as doctors, without having to take the PLE, upon waiver of the same by the PRC, so that they can be immediately deployed to support the government and local government units,” Tolentino said.