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VILLAFUERTE WANTS MEDICAL RESERVE CORPS TO SUPPORT FRONTLINERS DURING HEALTH CRISES

All graduates with degrees in the fields of medicine, nursing and other related fields who have not yet secured their licenses to practice are required to join a proposed medical reserve corps that Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte wants established to supplement  frontliners in the healthcare system during times of national health emergencies and disasters such as the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under Villafuerte’s House Bill (HB) No. 7007, members of the medical reserve corps may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national and local governments in their functions related to addressing the urgent needs of the country’s healthcare system during times of crises. 

The bill also proposes that members of the medical reserve corps may be called  to undergo retraining.

Villafuerte said the lack of medical personnel during the initial stages of the country’s fight against the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the urgency of establishing a medical reserve corps to ensure that the healthcare system is not overwhelmed during emergencies. 

“This bill seeks to uphold the role of medical and health-related personnel in nation-building. Being involved in the frontlines of a public health emergency is a patriotic act, and the reserve corps’ vital role necessitate that their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being are protected,” Villafuerte said.

Under HB 7007, the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) shall initiate the mobilization of the medical reserve corps, in coordination with the Secretaries of the Departments of National Defense (DND), of Education (DepEd) and of Interior and Local Government (DILG) or their duly authorized representatives with a rank of Undersecretary.

“There is hereby established a Medical Reserve Corps that shall be composed of all persons who have degrees in the field of medicine, nursing, medical technology and other health-related fields but have yet to have their respective licenses to practice for reasons such as but not limited to not having taken and/or passed the licensure examinations in their respective professions,” the bill states. 

The bill also proposes that members of the medical reserve corps may be called  to undergo retraining to maintain and enhance their level of competency and readiness for mobilization in times of crises.

Villafuerte said his bill requires the Department of Health (DOH) to evaluate requests for the deployment of the medical reserve corps. 

“When the number of personnel requested does not exceed one hundred and fifty (150) and the period of deployment does not exceed sixty (60) days, the DOH shall decide whether to approve or disapprove the request within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt thereof,” the bill states. 

 “When the number of personnel requested exceeds one hundred and fifty (150) or the period of deployment exceeds sixty (60) days, the DOH shall make a recommendation to the Office of the President (OP) within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the request. The OP shall decide whether to approve or disapprove the request within twenty-four (24) hours from receipt of the recommendation of the DOH,” the bill adds.

“Being involved in the frontlines of a public health emergency is a patriotic act.”

In case of a declaration of a state of war, state of lawless violence or state of calamity, the DOH may by its own initiative recommend the mobilization of the medical reserve force to the President. 

The President by himself, shall also have the power to order the mobilization of the corps to respond to national or local contingencies related to external and territorial defense, internal security and peace and order and/or disaster risk reduction management, the bill likewise states. 

Several lawmakers have thrown their support behind Villafuerte’s measure, which is a counterpart to a similar bill filed by Sen. Pia Cayetano in the Senate.

Villafuerte is the lead author of the House version of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which granted special powers to President Duterte to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the follow-up Bayanihan to Recover as One bill.

He is a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) monitoring the implementation of the Bayanihan Law and co-chairman of the social amelioration cluster of the House Ad Hoc Committee to Defeat Covid-19 (DCC), which is chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.

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