President Duterte was a pathetic figure last Sunday during his televised response to the appeal of…
The health workers’ appeal for a “time out” to assess the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis was a stinging indictment of its failure to competently address the problem even with a severe four -month lockdown.
Words such as “waging a losing battle” and “failing miserably” contradict Malacañang’s claim of improvements in the fight to to stop the spread of COVID-19.
More than 24 hours had passed and there has been no response from President Duterte to the health workers’ “distress signal” which was an appeal for a return of Mega Manila to the more rigid Enhanced Community Quarantine for two weeks from Aug. 1 to 15 “to reline our pandemic control strategies.”
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier statement of “I hear your pleas” ring hollow and sounded more like a pacifier to the distressed health workers.
The immediate reaction of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque even sounded like a rejection of the health workers’ plea: “The strict lockdown in Metro Manila has served its purpose, and we need to intensify other strategies.”
The health workers’ appeal, made one day after the government announced that Metro Manila will remain under GCQ, was in a letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, COVID-19 chief implementor Carlito Galvez Jr. and Duque.
The appeal, which carried the names of at least 60 city medical and health organizations, was read by Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Jose Santiago during an online press conference headed by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP).
Some highlights of the appeal which should move and alarm us:
*Hospital workforce deficiency – Hospitals in NCR are being overwhelmed by the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases these past weeks. The workforce is again effectively reduced because of the need for intermittent quarantine of personnel, and isolation of many who have fallen ill. To compound this, many have resigned because of fear, fatigue, and poor working conditions. Facilities have had to close because of these problems.
*Failure of case finding and isolation -RT-PCR is now being denied patients with symptoms. LGUs that do test continue to insist on use of inappropriate rapid antibody tests to identify cases of COVID-19 sending home patients with symptoms who test negative. This maybe responsible for the surge of cases we are now experiencing, because rapid tests miss more than half of people with active, contagious illness. In addition, patients with disease confirmed by RT-PCR are being turned away from isolation centers and forced to isolate in homes where this is hardly feasible.
*Failure of contract tracing and quarantine – Contract tracing is failing miserably. DOH and IATF guidance exist but LGU compliance is optional. The guidelines must be cascaded to our community leaders, health officers and local authorities and strictly enforced. A whole-of-society approach must be implemented, integrating use on non-uniformed personnel and volunteers.
The letter concluded: “Our health workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately our poor who are most compromised. In the end, winning the war against COVID-19 relies heavily on being able to keep our health system capacitated to address the need of all Filipinos” and expressed the hope “that our government heeds the plea.”
The public awaits President Duterte’s response.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.