Camarines Sur Representative Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte has upbraided the Department of Health (DOH) for what he described as an “almost criminal negligence” and “virtually deserting” the country’s health workers amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Villafuerte on Friday, April 16, specifically said that the DOH failed to fully equip the frontliners with personal protective equipment (PPEs) that are essential in their daily battle to save COVID-19 patients and their lives as well.
The failure of DOH executives to use the P3 billion allotted in Republic Act (RA) No. 11494, or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), for the acquisition of PPEs “smacks of criminal neglect,” he added.
Villafuerte said the health officials’ continuing inaction “has put our medical frontliners at serious risk of infection, great harm and even death on a daily basis in the absence or shortage of such indispensable protection against the highly infectious pathogen.”
Lawmakers, he explained, saw it fit to include the P3-billion budget for the PPEs of healthcare workers in the Bayanihan 2 in anticipation of any possible scarcity in the supply of protective gears.
“What makes this almost criminal negligence doubly infuriating is that P3 billion has been set aside in last year’s Bayanihan 2 for the purchase of PPEs for our medical frontliners, and yet DOH officials have chosen to take their own sweet time in buying such protective equipment that are so essential in our healthcare workers’ daily battle to save infected people and their lives as well,” Villafuerte lamented.
He pointed out that the government needs to provide healthcare workers with a constant and adequate supply of PPEs, especially at this time of a surge in COVID-19 infections.
“Does this inaction manifest plain lethargy on the part of our DOH officials to purchase PPEs for our hospital frontliners or does it unmask a more serious flaw, which is their collective cavalier attitude toward our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who are at the frontline of the global war against this lingering pandemic?” he asked.
“This seeming I-couldn’t-care-less mindset of our officials at the DOH is totally disgusting and betrays their apparent apathy towards our doctors, nurses and other hospital frontliners who risk their lives on a daily basis trying to save Filipinos from dying from COVID-19 that has already sickened almost 900,000 people in our country and killed over 15,400 of them,” Villafuerte said.
He said the acquisition of PPEs was supposed to have been done in the last year, given that Bayanihan 2 was originally supposed to expire in December, before its validity was extended to June 30, 2021.
Aside from PPEs, the P3 billion was also allocated for the purchase medical gowns, N95 respirators, surgical masks, gloves and shoe covers for the use healthcare workers.
Cristy Donguines, president of the Dr. Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC)’s Employees Union, and Benjamin Santos, a staff member at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), have been quoted in reports as complaining about the supposed lack of PPEs.
Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) vice president Dr. Maricar Limpin, who works at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), was also reported as expressing concern over the allegedly decreasing number of PPEs and the quality of some protective gear that are available.