Philippines' pandemic response sounds like 'a broken record', ex-DOH secretary says

Published August 24, 2021, 1:11 PM

by Gabriela Baron

The Philippines’ coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response sounds like “a broken record,” according to a former Department of Health (DOH) secretary, citing lack of testing and contact tracing.

(ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Tuesday, Aug. 24, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, who headed the Health Department in 2010, said the country’s testing and contact tracing programs failed to intercept the virus before it could be passed on.

“Unfortunately we sound like a broken record at this point, it’s still the same. We still have not improved in testing capacity, certainly not in contact tracing capacities, so we are not able to look for the virus where it is and how many people have it adequately,” Cabral said.

In a virtual briefing on Aug. 19, Testing Czar Vince Dizon said the average of COVID-19 tests conducted daily is at 60,000, however, he admitted that “it’s still not enough.”

Meanwhile, according to the Philippine Medical Students’ Association, the country’s current contact tracing ratio is at 1:6, far from the ideal 1:30 ratio.

READ MORE: Medical students to gov’t: Strengthen contact tracing

Cabral also hit the government’s failure to take care of its healthcare workers.

“Then we also said that we need to look after the health professionals because if we don’t do this, nobody will take care of the people who are sick, not just the COVID, but of non-COVID cases,” the ex-health secretary said.

“Look what’s happening at the moment, the healthcare professionals are so exhausted, so frustrated, so distressed that they are thinking of disengaging from the healthcare system. We really need to do something about this and fast,” Cabral added.

Earlier, various health workers from private and public hospitals considered staging a mass protest of DOH’s failure to release their benefits.

READ MORE: Health workers harbor doubts about Palace’s decision to give benefits

Cabral also urged the national government to “improve healthcare capacity” and the ability to provide beds, oxygen, and medicine to COVID-19 patients.

“We still haven’t done that and that’s the reason why there are lines in the emergency room again. Each surge that we have, the same thing happens,” she added.

“What does it say? It says that after every surge, instead of taking the time to improve our health capacity, we relax and hope that nothing else is going to happen. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is. So when the next surge comes, we are caught unprepared again.”

 
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