By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go recognized the critical role that medical technologists play in helping the country effectively respond to the global health crisis. Noting the sheer number of COVID-19 tests that medical technologists have to conduct on a daily basis, Go vowed to push for policies that will augment and strengthen the national health workforce.
In a speech during the last day of the 57th Philippine Association of Medical Technologists (PAMET) Annual Convention held virtually from December 1 to 4, Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, expressed gratitude to the medical technologists and other health workers who continue to serve bravely on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Sa lahat ng frontliners, maraming salamat mula sa amin ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte. Hindi matutumbasan ng kahit ano ang inyong sakripisyo… Lalo na ngayong pandemya, kailangan ng mga Pilipino ang inyong kadalubhasaan sa pagbibigay ng maaasahang mga pagsusuri upang masugpo ang COVID-19 at iba pang sakit,” said Go.
“Napakahalaga lalo na ng papel ng mga medical technologists sa ating pagsisikap na mabigyan ng malusog at ligtas na pangangatawan at kinabukasan ang ating mga kababayan,” he continued.
The lawmaker then commended PAMET for its efforts to raise the standards and visibility of clinical laboratory science in the country. He also noted that the pandemic has highlighted a critical need for more medical technologists to manage the high volume of tests.
To address this shortage, Go had earlier successfully pushed for the inclusion of all frontline personnel of the Professional Regulation Commission and board examiners in the A4 priority group of the COVID-19 vaccination program, without prejudice to the previously identified priority sectors.
“Kaya naman pinupuri ko ang PAMET sa patuloy na pagsulong ng laboratory science sa bansa sa loob ng halos 60 taon. Nagtitiwala ako na patuloy ninyong susundin ang pinakamataas na pamantayan sa inyong propesyon upang maihatid ang maayos na serbisyo na nararapat sa bawat Pilipino,” he added.
Furthermore, Go reaffirmed his commitment to push for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2421 which will provide health workers with a fixed monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance for the duration of the current State of Emergency in lieu of the special risk allowance and other financial compensation granted under the Bayanihan 2.
The bill, which Go authored and co-sponsored in the Senate, specifically seeks to give all health workers deployed in “high risk areas” a monthly allowance of P9,000 while those in “medium risk areas” and “low risk areas” will be provided P6,000 and P3,000, respectively.
“Sa ilalim ng panukalang ito, mas maraming health workers ang makakatanggap ng (allowance). Hindi na ito limitado sa mga directly exposed sa COVID-19 patients… Gaya ninyong medical technologists, hindi man kayo direktang exposed, kayo naman ang nagsusuri ng mga specimen kaya dapat lang na kasama kayo sa makatanggap,” he explained.
The senator also promised to ensure that the Department of Health has sufficient funds in 2022 for the continuous provision of said allowances and the implementation of President Duterte’s directive that increased the salary grade of Nurse II positions from SG 15 to SG 16.
Given the crucial role of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City, Go likewise pledged to back additional funds for the institute, which was the pioneer COVID-19 testing facility in the country.
“Hindi man mababayaran ng kahit anong halaga ang inyong buhay, mahalaga pa din ang pagkikilala sa sakripisyo ninyo … kaya naman nung may na-delay na cash assistance ng mga namatayan ng frontliners ay sinumbong ko ito kay Pangulo. Nakasuhan at nasuspendido ‘yung mga opisyales na nagpatagal nito,” related Go.
“Patuloy ko ding ipaglalaban ang lahat ng health-related at iba pang bills sa Senado na makakatulong sa mga mahihirap. Tutulungan ko kayo upang malampasan natin itong krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” he reassured.
The senator also reminded all sick and injured health workers to avail of the services of the Malasakit Centers. The center aims to reduce a patient’s hospital bill to the lowest possible amount by covering various patient services and expenses through existing medical assistance programs. There are currently 149 Malasakit Centers nationwide.
“I am proud to say na mayroon na tayong Malasakit Centers sa Batanes hanggang sa Jolo. Tutulungan kayo nito hanggang maging zero balance o wala na kayong babayaran sa ospital… Tuwing nagbubukas ako ng Malasakit Center, isa lang ang parati kong pinapaalala: unahin niyo ‘yung mga mahihirap, ‘yung helpless, hopeless at walang matakbuhan,” said Go.
The senator went on to recognize the string of promising developments on the vaccine front in recent weeks and called on PAMET’s local chapters to support the government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign to help the country achieve herd immunity.
The Philippines has so far obtained an estimated 146 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, 90.6 million of which have been successfully administered as of December 3. There are currently 37.6 million fully vaccinated Filipinos while another 52.6 million have received their first dose.
“Muli, maraming salamat sa inyong lahat, asahan niyo na gagawin namin ni Pangulong Duterte ang lahat ng aming makakaya upang isulong ang mga programa, proyekto at inisiyatibo na makakatulong sa kapakanan ninyo at magpapaganda sa estado ng kalusugan ng ating bansa,” pledged Go.
“Sa mga medical technologists, congratulations. Nandirito lang ako, ang inyong Kuya Bong Go. Kalabitin niyo ako any time kung may maitutulong ako. Sana patuloy din namin kayong maging kasama at katuwang sa aming mga adhikain ng Pangulo para sa ikabubuti ng buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he ended.
The ceremony was also attended by PAMET National President Rommel Saceda, National Vice President Felicisimo Martinez Jr., Executive Secretary Ma. Rita Sebastian, National Treasurer Evangeline Castillo, National Auditor Marites Go and National PRO Mark Nava, among others. (ai/mtvn)