By Ellson Quismorio
Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo is prodding government to form a consortium that would purchase medical supplies in big bulk as a way to counter the surging prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lady solon frowned over the continued skyrocketing of prices for such goods “because donors, hospitals and even patients desperately needing them are engaged in a bidding war.”
“The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and the DOF (Department of Finance) should intervene to stop this practice. They should also go after hoarders, price manipulators, and unscrupulous importers and distributors who are making a killing at the expense of the sick and needy,” Castelo said.
She warned authorities that unless the bidding war stops, only hospitals with sufficient resources and rich patients would get the personal protective equipment (PPE) and medicines they need.
Castelo said the DTI and DOF could procure PPEs like suits or gowns, face shields, masks, as well as other supplies such as alcohol and medicines, and distribute these to hospitals and patients at the cost of procurement.
Alternatively, the government could designate a private group composed of businessmen already helping in the fight against COVID-19 to make the bulk purchase and then sell the items at the best possible price to hospitals and donors.
“Government should control the purchase through a private consortium. Arrest hoarders, price gougers. This will bring down the price of frontline essentials,” she explained.
Castelo said that even basic medicines for flu-like symptoms are running out of stock. “I don’t want to imagine what would happen to poor patients and frontline health workers of hospitals with inadequate funds if they cannot buy the supplies and medicines they need.”
She pointed out that many doctors and nurses are forced to make do with cheap, improvised and locally-made gowns and body shields that are reportedly not as safe as the imported products.
She reminded the DTI, DOF and other government agencies that under the Bayanihan to Heal As One law, it is their responsibility to procure medical supplies and drugs “in the most expeditious manner” and to make these available and affordable to those who need them, especially poor patients.
“They are also mandated to go after hoarders, profiteers and price manipulators,” she said.