DOH gets $125-M loan for COVID-19 response

Published August 25, 2020, 10:43 AM

by Chino S. Leyco

The Department of Health (DOH) secured a $125 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to help the agency improve its capacity in preventing and controlling the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, the Manila-based lender announced the approval of a fresh loan equivalent to P6 billion to support an ADB-funded project called Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit (HEAL) COVID-19 of the DOH.

According to the ADB, the latest financing should improve health services across the country through the upgrading of medical equipment and related training.

Ahmed M. Saeed, ADB vice-president said the DOH project should help improve the preparedness and resilience of the country’s health systems at the national and local levels in handling current and future public health threats.

It will also contribute to the Philippines’ efforts toward implementing universal health coverage, Saeed added.

Likewise, Sakiko Tanaka, ADB principal social sector specialist for Southeast Asia, said the project will help the government scale up its ability to conduct COVID-19 tests, surveillance, and infection prevention and control.

Tanaka also said the project will provide critical care equipment to improve treatment outcomes.

Currently, the Duterte administration is seeking to more than double the daily COVID-19 testing capacity to 75,000 by the end of the year from the present nearly 31,000 tests.

The project will provide medical equipment, including electrocardiography machines and defibrillators, to 17 major hospitals across the country and upgrade their laboratories and isolation facilities.

It will also provide ventilators to 70 DOH hospitals and 20 island local government hospitals; install computed tomography scan machines in 33 hospitals; deliver test kits, chemicals, and reagents to at least 10 state molecular laboratories and provide personal protective equipment.

In addition, the project will fund the training of staff and laboratory technicians on how to operate and maintain the equipment.

Doctors and nurses in obstetrics, pediatric, and emergency departments will learn how to reduce infection and control virus transmission.

Health workers will also learn how to provide psycho-social support to patients and families, including pregnant women and other vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19.

The project complements an ADB grant to the DOH, which was approved in March to build a pandemic subnational reference laboratory in the Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, with a daily output of 3,000 COVID-19 tests.