MANILA, Philippines — Medicine graduates may soon join health workers who are at the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the interim guidelines allowing the limited practice of medical graduates as the country grapples with a reduced health workforce because of the pandemic.
IATF spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the special authorizations "shall only be issued as a last resort."
"Any authorization shall only be effective for the duration of the state of public health emergency in the Philippines unless earlier withdrawn by the IATF upon recommendation of the DOH (Department of Health)," Nograles said at a press briefing Tuesday.
Under the Medical Act of 1959, medical students who have completed the first four years of medical course, medicine graduates, and registered nurses may be given limited and special authorization by the health secretary to render medical services during epidemics or national emergencies even without certificate of registration whenever the services of duly registered physicians are not available.
Such authorization shall automatically cease when the epidemic or national emergency is declared terminated by the health secretary.
Earlier this month, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines said 21 Filipino doctors have died of COVID-19 mainly because their patients did not provide accurate information about their condition and exposure. The health department has also reported that more than 200 health workers in the country have contracted COVID-19.
The government has vowed to provide hospitals enough personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of medical frontliners.
Nograles said the health department has also been tasked to facilitate the emergency hiring of additional healthcare workers to assist in the local healthcare system, subject to the evaluation of the budget department.
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