By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Tuesday that she and some former health secretaries have drafted a four-point plan as they made an urgent appeal to the government to intensify efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hontiveros said any talk proposal on the lifting or extension of the enhanced community quarantine must be anchored upon with intensified health care efforts.
“This is an urgent appeal to our national and government leaders. The fight against COVID-19 must, first and foremost, be heavy on healthcare,” Hontiveros said.
“It is a catch-up plan to prevent the spread of infection, strengthen the country’s line of defense, and reduce the threat of COVID-19,” she stressed.
The joint statement was signed by Hontiveros and notable health policy experts such as former health secretaries Esperanza Cabral and Jaime Galvez-Tan, Galing Pook’s Dr. Eddie Dorotan, Universty of the Philippines College of Public Health Dean and former DOH Undersecretary Dr. Vicente Belizario, Jr. and Ateneo de Manila University’s Institute of Philippine Culture – School of Social Sciences’ Dr. Dennis Batangan.
In their joint statement, the health policy working group called for a tenfold increase in the number of people tested; protection of health workers against discrimination and ample supply of personal protective equipment or PPE; balance between hospital and community-based healthcare management system; and support and capacity-building for local government units (LGUs).
The group also welcomed the government’s decision to conduct mass testing starting April 14, saying there is a need to test more people for COVID-19.
“There is a need to test more and the time is now. The government must acquire, distribute, and utilize available and acceptable testing kits to further improve our screening, detection, assessment and management of presumptive COVID-19 cases,” the statement said.
The health policy-working group also urged local government units (LGUs) to ensure the protection of health workers against discrimination.
“It is lamentable that they are being discriminated in dormitories, housing and other establishments because of their line of work,” Hontiveros said.
“The LGUs must step in through (enactment of) an ordinance that protects our frontliners’ rights and welfare against any form of discrimination,” she added.
The health policy working group also called for the establishment of dedicated points of care for COVID-19 patients that include conversion of existing facilities into makeshift hospitals and equipping local networks of hospitals to be able to attend to mild cases of COVID-19 and as referring hospitals.
The group proposed the designation of local quarantine facilities to effectively isolate persons under investigation, and monitoring and enabling communities and families to operate home-based COVID-19 care support systems.
“With households and communities as the first line of defense, the government must invest in the empowerment of families, community organizations and barangay councils in continuing preventive and protective practices against the disease,” the joint statement said.