By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Pia Cayetano has sought a legislative inquiry into the current state of the country’s public health infrastructure and health service delivery, saying this will help improve the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other future health emergencies.
The senator on Wednesday filed two resolutions asking the appropriate panels to conduct a hearing on the future of the country’s public health system in preparation for the “new normal.”
In filing Senate Resolution No. 403, Cayetano stressed the need to assess the capacity of existing public health infrastructure and the accessibility of vital medical equipment and supplies.
If this remains unchecked amid the projected trends of COVID-19, she said this may strain the capacity of the country to effectively control and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
While there are already supplemental measures, Cayetano noted that mounting cases continue to push our healthcare facilities to their capacity limits.
“Modeling forecasts show that the number of COVID-19 cases in the country may peak towards 70,000 to 75,000 cases within the next three months,” the senator noted, citing a Department of Health (DOH) report.
“Despite having 68 percent of the country’s hospital beds in Level 2 and Level 3 hospitals where COVID-19 patients can be treated… recent estimates still show that hospitals in the country fall relatively short from the optimal 42,856 beds, with one hospital bed available for every 1,121 Filipino patients,” she lamented.
Cayetano also noted the lack of basic sanitation facilities in the country’s healthcare centers. A World Health Organization (WHO) 2019 study revealed that four percent of health facilities in the Philippines have no toilets, while 23 percent utilize unsanitary toilets, thus allowing the spread of infection among communities.
Cayetano said there is a necessity to address lack of access to medical equipment in the country, stating that the “new normal” requires “that we have an adequate supply of vital medical equipment and materials to meet both medical and public consumption needs.”
“Recent reports show that there are 1,937 mechanical ventilators for COVID-19 patients, which remains relatively insufficient given the standing 8,361 active cases in hospitals as of 11 May 2020… The alarming number of COVID-19 cases among health workers (also) highlights the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)… with hospitals estimated to use an average of 200 to 500 PPEs per day,” Cayetano noted.
“These aspects of the country’s health system, if remained unchecked amid the projected trends of this virus, may strain our capacity to effectively control and prevent the spread of the disease and to significantly transition to an imminent new state of normalcy,” the lawmaker added.
At the same time, Cayetano also filed Senate Resolution No. 404, on the effects of COVID-19 on “the future of our health service delivery.”
With the onset of the new normal, existing practices and systems in health service delivery, Cayetano warned physical clinics, face-to-face triage, and paper-based prescriptions, may be ineffective in responding to the need for stricter respiratory hygiene and physical distancing measures.
As such, all stakeholders—the academe, private sector, and government—should collaborate to explore possible outcomes, emerging ideas, and innovative opportunities and strategies for a better delivery of health services during the “new normal.”
“We should employ futures thinking as an essential strategy in dealing with this issue. It is a method of informed reflections on the possible futures of various aspects of life,” she said.