By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has allotted ₱14.135 million to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) here to enhance its capabilities to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim handed over the check to Dr. Helen Yambao, CRMC administrator, after they signed here on Monday a memorandum of agreement (MOA), prescribing the use of the fund for the purchase of medical and laboratory supplies needed in diagnostic tests for (COVID-19) disease.
CRMC is located in this city, which is part of the BARMM territory. But its administration remains under the national government through the Department of Health (DOH). BARMM has its own Ministry of Health (MOH).
Apart from the purchase of medical and laboratory supplies, the MOA also authorized the CRMC to use the fund for salary of contractual laboratory personnel; training of workers; and maintenance and other operating expenses in the campaign against the pandemic, according to Abdullah Cusain, deputy executive secretary to the Chief Minister.
“This will make them [CRMC people] one step closer to being an accredited and capable laboratory to conduct the very important Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19 patients,” Ebrahim said, referring to the fund allotment, during a handover ceremony at the BARMM’s executive lounge here.
Ebrahim noted that among medical facilities within BARMM, the CRMC had the utmost capability to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on COVID-19 cases.
“Indeed, we are in difficult times. We are (fighting) an enemy we cannot see with our naked eyes, an enemy that has overwhelmed our healthcare systems worldwide. Through our cooperation, understanding, and strong faith in Allah, we are confident that we will surpass this challenge,” Ebrahim said in his brief message.
In response, Yambao said the BARMM fund assistance “would be a great help to us considering how the COVID-19 has spread globally and in pandemic proportions.”
Yambao said the assistance will not only benefit residents in BARMM but also constituents in the Region 12, which covers North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat as their component cities.
She said the CRMC was able to “see 148 patients, tested 19 PUIs, and diagnosed 6 positive COVID-19 patients” since the pandemic began, adding that most of such patients have not been tested due to lack of PCR.
BARMM’s Health Minister Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan lauded the CRMC management for readily accepting his proposed joint venture in combating COVID-19, and acknowledged also the autonomous regional cabinet for approving such proposal.
Dipatuan said both BARMM and CRMC “have weaknesses and strengths,” but combining their forces “can overcome the weaknesses and transform them to formidable strength.”
He noted the lack of localized conduct of PCR has been a “big challenge” among all regions, especially the one year-old BARMM.