Frontliners’ just demand
Doctors, nurses, technicians and other health workers, known as frontliners, have been performing dangerous duties to care for Covid-19 positive patients. For them to be able to perform efficiently, they have laid out their immediate needs and just demands.
Primarily, they demanded the government to provide health workers with adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). PPEs refer to protective clothing, helmets, face shields, or other garments designed to protect the wearer’s body from infection. Frontliners bear the dangers of shortages in PPEs in many hospitals. According to the Alliance of Health Workers, 26 health workers tested positive for the disease in Metro Manila alone. At least 12 doctors have died from the disease.
Frontliners also demanded free and, if possible, regular testing for health workers.
They also demanded additional hiring of and trainings for regular heaalth workers to improve their capability in treating patients. In 2018, 47% of barrios across the country have no health centers. The presence of health centers, however, does not guarantee the availability of doctors or nurses that will attend to patients. The doctor-to-patient ratio in the Philippines is one doctor per 33,000 patients (far from the global standard set at one doctor is to 1,000 patients). Similarly, only 10 hospital beds are available for every 10,000 patients.
Since the 1980s, the government’s budget allocation to health has not reached 5% of the local gross domestic product. Particularly, the budget for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which primarily conducts Covid-19 tests, was slashed by 57% in 2017.
Frontliners also demanded for wage increase, hazard pay and security of tenure.