By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte told Congress that the government has secured more facilities and other resources for health workers and other frontliners to support them as they fight the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In his weekly report to Congress, Duterte recognized that it was critical to ensure that resources were mobilized to strengthen health facilities caring for COVID-19 related cases.
“All possible support must be extended to our health workers who are risking their health and lives on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
By the numbers
In his report, Duterte said there were 55 COVID-referral hospitals in the country as of April 2. In Metro Manila, three COVID-19 hospitals have 620 beds while around 1,700 isolation and quarantine beds are still to be supplied.
The country has a total of 172,744 active human resources for health in both the public and private sectors, comprising 28,428 doctors, 89,254 nurses, 42,108 midwives, and 12,754 medical technologists.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has started to facilitate the conversion of evacuation centers and other selected sites into health/quarantine facilities, food hubs, and quarters for health workers.
The DPWH likewise started construction to convert the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Ninoy Aquino Stadium, and the World Trade Center into health/quarantine facilities that can accommodate at least 900 PUIs and PUMs. These are expected to be completed before April 14.
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases directed the Department of Transportation to identify maritime vessels that can be converted into floating quarantine hospitals to accommodate PUMs.
Assistance to health workers
Duterte signed Administrative Order No. 28 granting a one-time special risk allowance to public health workers for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
As the ECQ called for the suspension of mass transportation, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) started to dispatch buses to provide free rides to health workers and frontliners.
The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) likewise approved P444.5 million under its Calamity Assistance Program for 81 beneficiary hospitals around the country.
As of April 2, the PhilHealth has released P2.5 billion to 65 hospitals and other healthcare facilities for COVID-19 response.
Meanwhile, government agencies like the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and Light Rail Manila Corporation have donated face masks, alcohol, thermal scanners, gloves, and meals to healthcare workers, drivers, and other frontline personnel.
TESDA mobilized its resources to produce masks, face shields, personal protective equipment (PPEs), hand sanitizers, and surface disinfectants. These were distributed in 16 regions.
The CHED likewise mobilized 71 state colleges and universities which were able to produce volumes of alcohol, sanitizers and disinfectants, face shields, face masks, and a prototype design for a disinfection cabin.
CHED was also finalizing guidelines to grant higher education institutions P180 million for the continued production of items for distribution to frontliners.
Testing kits, centers
To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a total of 21 polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based kits and nine antibody rapid test kits, including the first locally-made PCR-based test kit developed by the DOST and DOH in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health.
The DOH, meanwhile, has accredited eight COVID-19 testing laboratories in the country. It is still assessing and validating 63 applications for COVID-19 testing accreditation.
Approximately 100,000 test kits have been delivered to the accredited testing laboratories. As of April 3, a total of 19,315 individuals have been tested for COVID-19.