Med grads eyed for COVID-19 response

THE Department of Health issued a memorandum which allows medical graduates to engage in limited practice of medicine as deputized physicians, without need of any certificate of registration from the Professional Regulation Commission.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said Department Memorandum No. 2020-0169, issued last Saturday, to deputize medical graduates to assist in the COVID-19 response, is consistent with the provisions of Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” and R.A. 2382 or the “Medical Act of 1959.”

R.A. 11469 vests in the President the power “to engage temporary Human Resources for Health to complement or supplement the current health workforce” in the country while R.A. 2382 stipulates that “Medical graduates who have completed the first four years of medical course, or graduates of medicines x xx may be given limited authorization by the Secretary of Health to render services during epidemics or national emergencies whenever the services of duly registered physicians are not available.”

Duque said the engagement of these deputized physicians shall be a last resort, when all efforts to recruit or hire licensed physicians have been exhausted. They will be handling non-COVID19 cases in a primary health care facility, or in the hospitals affiliated with their medical school.

“This ensures that other essential health services will not be interrupted throughout the COVID-19 response,” he said.

For those to be assigned in primary health care facilities i.e. health centers, rural health units, province/city health offices, clinics, or temporary isolation facilities, the medical graduates are expected to treat and manage cases to help reduce the burden in hospitals already overwhelmed by COVID-19.

They are also expected to assist in the early detection of COVID-19 cases, facilitate appropriate referrals by following the standard algorithms provided by the DOH, and treat cases that can adequately be managed at the health facilities thus mentioned.

Meanwhile, those who will be assigned in affiliated public or private hospitals will temporarily augment the health workforce of the hospitals by covering areas, departments, or units where regular hospital staff have been pulled out and transferred from due to the influx of COVID-19 cases.

The deputized physicians, however, shall not be assigned in critical care areas, COVID-19 triage/frontline areas, emergency room or in other areas directly managing COVID-19 cases.

The special authorization for limited practice of medicine may be granted to Filipino graduates of a Medical Education Program who have completed the one-year Post-Graduate Internship Program within two years prior to March 17, 2020 or the declaration of expanded community quarantine.

Once hired, a deputized physician will receive a monthly salary of P38,463.60 (inclusive of 20% premium), COVID-19 Hazard Allowance of P500.00 per day, Special Risk Allowance, board and lodging, and other benefits provided for under R.A. 11469 and other relevant policies, under a contract of service.

Apart from appropriate personal protective equipment (PPEs), proper orientation on protocols, safe and quality patient care, and other institutional policies will be provided regularly.

The limited authority to practice of the deputized physicians will be valid until the termination of the national health emergency or until prematurely revoked or cancelled. They will be working under the supervision of a licensed physician who will be accountable for their actions.