The alleged failure of the Department of Health (DOH) to provide complete information about some of Quezon City's (QC) coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients are causing delays in the local government's contact tracing efforts by days," Mayor Joy Belmonte said.
The city's public affairs and information office on Thursday (Aug. 6) said this is the reason Belmonte wrote DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III a letter dated Aug. 4 appealing to the department to give the city complete information about its COVID-19 cases.
"The lack of available information from the outset, specifically addresses and contact numbers, amounting to half of all cases reported, delays contact tracing by days," Belmonte said in a statement.
Belmonte expressed alarm that the situation "forces frontliners to spend time looking for the needed information from other possible sources, including social media."
She also said that due to lack of information provided by the DOH, the local government's time and resources are spent coordinating with disease reporting units (DRU), laboratories, and hospitals “to request information that should have been diligently filled up in the first place.”
For instance, Belmonte said that on Aug. 3, the DOH reported 1,224 new COVID-19 cases in the city through its COVID KAYA information system.
While more than half of these have already been confirmed by the city's epidemiology unit and its health department, Belmonte said 573 of them or 47 percent have no addresses or contact numbers.
She said this forced the City Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (CESU) to label these cases as 'unknown.'
"This means that almost half of the reported cases tagged as QC in the KAYA info system for these days have no addresses and contact numbers, posing a major challenge in contact tracing," Belmonte said, noting these cases may not even be city residents.
Belmonte also called out the DOH's alleged failure to provide information about which hospitals or laboratories conducted the swab tests of some of its new positive cases.
“With that, we appeal to your good office as Secretary of Health to set the vision and direction in improving data quality for rapid contact tracing,” Belmonte told Duque.
Belmonte said the country's health department can provide financial or non-financial incentives for quality data and impose penalties or sanctions for incomplete information or the failure to report data.
“As we increase our investment in logistics and human resources for contact tracing, we hope that LGU (local goverment unit) efforts are matched by leadership and action from DOH in improving data quality,” she said.
CESU head Dr. Rolly Cruz backed Belmonte’s call to the DOH, saying it would be easier for the city’s contact tracers to perform their job with complete data on hand.
“The DOH would be of great assistance to our contact tracers if they will provide us with sufficient data. This way, we can cover more ground efficiently,” Cruz said.