'Last resort': Gov't greenlights 'limited practice' of medicine graduates in COVID-19 fight

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 09:11 PM

Hospital frontliners wear personal protective equipment as they man the entrance of the emergency room in the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila on March 24, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The government has approved the "limited practice" of medicine graduates yet to obtain their license in efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus disease, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Tuesday.

The Department of Health will give medical graduates special authorization for a limited role "as a last resort" while the Philippines remains under a state of public health emergency due to COVID-19.

This as hospitals grappled with an increasing number of cases and suspected patients, straining personnel, several of whom have died and many placed under quarantine for COVID-19 exposure. 

"Nililinaw lang po natin na ang mga special authorizations na ito ay ibibigay lang bilang last resort, at ito po ay epektibo lamang habang tayo ay nasa ilalim ng State of Public Health Emergency," Nograles said in a virtual press briefing.

(We wish to clarify that the special authorizations will only be given as a last resort and will only be effective while the country is under a state of public health emergency.)

The DOH has already formulated interim guidelines for the matter, the Cabinet official said.

Earlier, Sen. Francis Tolentino urged the government to forego the physician board examination for more than 1,500 examinees so they can help in the COVID-19 response.

According to Tolentino, the Medical Act of 1959 provides that "medical students who have completed the first four years of medical course, graduates of medicine and registered nurses are allowed to render medical services upon authorization by the Secretary of Health without need of a certificate of registration" in times of epidemics of national emergencies.

Tapping medical graduates comes as the government seeks to augment its overwhelmed healthcare workforce leading the fight against the pandemic.

The government also approved the health department's request to hire 857 more healthcare workers, the majority of whom are nurses.