The Bureau of Fire Protection’s (BFP) Quezon City Fire District (QCFD) has denied allegations they lack guidelines in dealing with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection in their ranks.
In a letter sent to Manila Bulletin Wednesday, the QCFD maintained they have “COVID-19 guidelines disseminated in the sub-station and office level” and “all are provided for compliance of lower level to ensure the safety not only for the personnel but also the families and citizens which they are bond to serve.”
“In the memorandum signed by the former District Fire Marshal of Quezon City Fire District SSUPT Jaime D Ramirez re: Protocol on COVID-19 Response for Sub-Stations, guidelines and protocols have been clearly laid out for strict compliance and dissemination as early as 16 March 2020,” part of the 67-page letter, signed by current district fire marshal S/Supt. Joe Fernand Bangyod, read.
The QCFD made the clarification after a fireman detailed in one of the city’s sub-stations in an interview with Manila Bulletin urged fire officials to draw up proper guidelines in handling the COVID-19 outbreak in their ranks claiming those who have tested positive for the disease were still deployed to do chores.
The fireman substantiated his claim by photos, several activity and post-activity reports, among others. He said operations were conducted even after one of the QCFD personnel, who they had close contact with, already tested positive for the virus.
“Kasi ang alam ko pong protocol…pag may nagpositive doon sa isang building, disinfect sabay 15 days walang papasok. Eh samin sir hindi eh. Wala silang guidelines na nirelease. Wala silang matinong sistemang ginawa [As far as I know, if someone tests positive in a building, the establishment should immediately be disinfected and that for 15 days, no employee would report to the office. But in our case, this did not happen. They did not release any guideline and have no proper system],” the firefighter lamented during the interview.
“Hindi pinapauwi ang mga stay-in…at kahit may nag-positive na sa station, inuutusan pa rin…na mag-disinfect ng mga palengke at lumabas ang fire truck para mag Oplan Ligtas Pamayanan [The stay-ins at our station are not allowed to go home. And even if someone at the station tests positive, we are still ordered to disinfect markets and take out fire trucks to conduct Oplan Ligtas Pamayanan],” he added.
The fireman added that firefighters themselves were the ones taking initiative to be swab tested on their own.
The QCFD, however claimed that “all stations with COVID-19 positive personnel and those who are exposed were prioritized to be swabbed depending on the availability of the Mega Swabbing Facility in Philippine Arena manned by BFP” and that “personnel involved were being scheduled immediately for swab testing upon” approval.
“Thus, the allegation of the personnel ‘sila sila lang yung dumidiskarte’ is untrue,” the QCFD letter read, adding that “proper scheduling is observed to avoid congestion.”
Meanwhile, the fireman also claimed that one of their officials took the threat of COVID-19 lightly by telling them to just take Vitamin C. But the QCFD denied this and pointed to a memorandum dated July 20, 2020 which provides that “everyone is strongly encouraged to adhere to the health and safety practices listed in the memorandum to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within their respective station.”
The QCFD furthered that “the pandemic was not taken lightly,” and “to give support to this, a memorandum by the undersigned dated 20 July 2020 re: Rising Cases of COVID-19 in Quezon City Fire District was disseminated to strongly encouraged everyone to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation and contact tracing activities.”
The fireman, however said the deployment of coronavirus positives was done before the issuance of the July 20 memo.
“There was no negligence in handling the situation as what the statement is trying to point. The alleged treatment on the case was merely an opinion of one unverified source out of 586 QCFD personnel,” the fire district claimed.
Manila Bulletin tried to get the side of former city fire marshal S/Supt. Jaime Ramirez on the allegations before running the story. Ramirez replied only to say he was already transferred to another assignment.
Reached out for comment, Anna Rizza Bancolita, chief of the Public Information Unit (PIU) of the BFP-National Capital Region (NCR) told Manila Bulletin in a viber message: “Mandatory po ang swab test at quarantine sa buong BFP. May alternative work arrangement scheme din po kami sa buong NCR [Swab testing and quarantine are mandatory in the entire BFP. We also have alternative work arrangement schemes in our NCR offices.”
Manila Bulletin asked Bancolita for a copy of the guidelines on what to do when a personnel is tested positive, but she no longer replied.