Doctors, nurses, microbiologists, and other health workers cannot leave for work abroad as the country grapples with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the government ordered Friday.
An order signed on April 2 by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, acting as chairperson of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), restricted medical frontliners from leaving the country "until the national state of emergency is lifted."
Citing a provision of Republic Act 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, the POEA said the Executive branch of government was granted the power to tap more health workers as additional manpower to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Also covered by the temporary overseas deployment ban are molecular biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, X-ray or radiologic technicians, nursing assistants or aides, medical equipment operators, health services and personal care supervisors, and repairmen of medical equipment.
"It is of paramount national interest to ensure that the country shall continue to have, sustain the supply of, and prepare sufficient health personnel to meet any further contingencies, especially to replace, substitute or reinforce existing workforce currently employed, deployed or utilized locally," the POEA order said.
Public and private hospitals have reported fewer workers as some frontliners have been forced to undergo self-quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 patients.
More than 250 doctors, nurses, and hospital staff have been infected, while 17 doctors have died due to the disease, the Philippine Medical Association said.
Should the national emergency end, medical professionals will still be stopped from leaving unless travel restrictions to their destination countries due to COVID-19 are lifted, the order added.