The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to establish the Health Emergency Auxiliary Reinforcement Team (HEART) under the Department of Health (DOH) to augment the health workforce in times of disasters, public health emergencies, and health threats.
With an overwhelming 254 votes, the lower chamber approved House Bill (HB) No. 6518 recently.
The HEART shall be composed of individuals who shall voluntarily register with the DOH.
Under the bill, the HEART shall be composed of the following individuals who shall voluntarily register with the DOH:
(a) Licensed professionals in the fields of medicine, nursing, medical technology, and other allied health fields including those who are retired and those who are no longer practicing their professions in a health facility setting;
(b) Graduates of medicine and allied health courses and medical students who have completed a one-year medical internship and who have not yet been issued licenses to practice their respective professions; and
(c) other health support workforce, including barangay health workers, whose services are necessary in times of disasters, public health emergencies and health threats.
“The State recognizes the need for a reserve force of highly skilled and health-oriented professionals and volunteers.”
“The State recognizes the need for a reserve force of highly skilled and health-oriented professionals and volunteers who can be mobilized to maintain the capacity to meet surges in the demand for additional manpower in the country’s healthcare system and provide assistance as needed in times of health crises,” the bill’s declaration of policy said.
“Pursuant to this, it is the policy of the State to promote the spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ and enhance the capacity of the nation to expand its human health resources in times of disasters, public health emergencies and health threats of both national and local scale through the mobilization of the Health Emergency Auxiliary Reinforcement Team,” it added.
The proposed law also creates the HEART Board which shall prescribe a comprehensive guideline for the recruitment, selection and training of a HEART volunteer.
The Board shall also approve the prompt mobilization of the HEART upon receipt of a request from municipal and city mayors and provincial governors in connection with a public health emergency, threats to public health, or a disaster, whether of local or national scale.
The bill provides that in recognition and appreciation of the HEART volunteers’ service rendered during the period of actual mobilization, implementing agencies may provide volunteers with an allowance as may be determined by the DOH in coordination with Department of Budget and Management, subject to availability of funds, and other existing civil service, budgeting, accounting and auditing rules and regulations.