By Ellson Quismorio
House members underscored on Sunday the importance of local government unit (LGU) participation amid the continued threat posed by the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the population.
For Las Piñas City lone district Rep. Camille Villar, a robust and dependable emergency medical services system (EMSS) must be established throughout the country via the LGUs to counter the as yet incurable COVID-19.
Villar filed House Bill (HB) No. 5788, which seeks to establish, institutionalize, and strengthen emergency medical systems in the country. She said the system would constitute the comprehensive policy framework governing the provision of emergency medicine (EM) in each of the country’s LGUs.
“Emergency medicine is a specialized discipline in the medical field focused on giving timely and coordinated health and safety services to victims of sudden illness or injury, prior to them reaching hospitals, health centers or other brick-and-mortar healthcare facilities,” explained the House Deputy Majority Leader.
“There’s still so much we don’t know about COVID-19 (2019 coronavirus disease) as far as treatment is concerned.
But having a strong EMSS in the background can help save lives and ease the public’s paranoia on this new virus. As with any viral infection, the first few hours is always important and this bill ensures that we have the infrastructure to respond to it,” said Villar.
Under the proposed Act, LGUs shall create their own Dispatch Centers with adequate and qualified personnel. The Dispatch Centers shall follow the prescribed guidelines on dispatch protocol.
“All LGUs shall establish their respective Command Centers with designated qualified EMS medical director. Command Centers shall govern the EMS systems based on the prescribed operational guidelines. The Command Center can be co-located with the Dispatch Center,” Villar said in her bill.
The bill also mandates the creation of the National EMSS Advisory Committee, to be co-chaired by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Data cited during the 2013 Asian Conference on Emergency Medicine showed that the Philippines only has 3,300 recognized Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel. And out of a reported 1,795 hospitals in the country, only 200 (or 11 percent) can be considered “emergency hospitals” or facilities that are capable of providing quality EM care, Villar said.
DILG update needed
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte wants the DILG to confirm whether or not the country’s LGUs have already set up their respective task forces to help the national government in preventing the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which causes COVID-19.
The DILG should update the public on the status of its earlier directive for all LGUs to create their own anti-COVID-19 task forces, which would advise their constituents about the needed precautionary measures as well as serve as a coordinating body with DOH.
“The public needs to know whether all LGUs [have complied] with the DILG’s directive last month…more so now that the number of [worldwide] COVID-19 infections and fatalities are growing by the day,” Villafuerte, a former Camarines Sur governor, said.
Villafuerte said city and municipal mayors, as well as governors, should give top priority to the creation of COVID-19 task forces following last month’s declaration by the World Health Organization (WHO) of a global health emergency over this virus.
The WHO has declared the virus he world’s “Public Enemy Number 1” after the worldwide death toll surpassed the 1,000-mark.
This new strain, which was first detected last December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, has led to three COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, all of them Chinese nationals. One of them died and was the first fatality from the disease recorded outside of China.