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Govt told to prioritize health workers’ well-being via emergency powers

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By Ellson Quismorio

Now with special powers in tow, Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda said government ought to prioritize the health and wellbeing of frontline medical workers, as some are succumbing to the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Lamenting the death of doctors (nine as of this writing)  after contracting the still incurable illness, she also expressed concern for the thousands of medical practitioners who continue to be exposed to the virus as they fulfill their duties.

“It breaks my heart to learn that some of our health workers—the very people who are providing care to our patients and keeping us safe from the disease—have died. With the President’s signing of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, I hope the government can extend adequate support to all our frontliners in addressing COVID-19 as efficiently and urgently as possible,” Legarda said.

The Act gives President Duterte special or emergency powers designed to help government tackle the pandemic in a more efficient manner.

“I also plea to the general public to not add stress to our already overburdened hospitals and health workers by staying at home and strictly following government protocol and safety measures during this Enhanced Community Quarantine period. Let us do our part to arrest the spread of the disease,” added the former senator.

Legarda reckoned that the decline of the frontliners’ health and well-being would also mean the decline of society itself.

“We must do all that we can to support them in carrying out their duties without them having to worry about their health and safety. As they risk their lives to contain the spread of the virus, let us also do our part. Let us survive this pandemic through fortitude and solidarity,” she said.

Legarda, who voted in favor of the passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, said that the law provides a special risk allowance on top of hazard pay, as well as shoulders all medical costs for those who were exposed to the virus.

The newly-enacted measure will also provide P100,000 to public and private health workers who contract the disease and P1 million to the families of health workers who died in the line of duty.

The law also authorizes the provision of an emergency subsidy to 18 million low income families, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 for two months; procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits, and other medical supplies and tools in the most expeditious manner; and the fast tracking of accreditation for COVID-19 testing by public and private medical institutions.

Legarda, author of Republic Act No. 10361 or the Domestic Workers Act, said that the government must ensure that safe working conditions and the provision of social and other benefits for domestic workers are followed.

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