Another frontline worker has sounded off the need for a “centralized operation center” to effectively tackle the local COVID-19 outbreak with no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, now armed with emergency powers, calling the shots in the fight against the virus.
As hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with patients and with health care workers still in need of personal protection equipment (PPE) and medical supplies necessary for their protection, Dr. Anthony Leachon, an internist and cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital, called to “modify” the approach against the new coronavirus.
Part of Leachon’s proposal is to take away the management of and responsibility in the country’s war against COVID-19 away from the Department of Health (DoH), which of late has been warding off criticisms for its poor handling of the crisis.
“Let Malacañang take over in handling a command center against the virus,” Leachon said. “We should modify. The government is disorganized in handling the response to the virus.”
“There should be firm decisions, which only President Duterte can make. Or with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea there,” Leachon added. “These decisions should be made, right away.”
Leachon, also a former DoH consultant and ex-PhilHealth director, made the recommendation though a video post. He is also a former president of the Philippine College of Physicians and ex-Public Affairs Director of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Among his other proposals is the activation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council as the primary body to implement the president’s orders aimed at halting the spread of the virus; the setting up of a centralized command, control and coordination office with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF); management of distribution of PPE, testing kits and medical supplies; and an organized system and breakdown of resources released to the hospitals serving COVID-19 patients.
“There should be an abundance of PPE and medical supplies for the frontline workers. Doctors are dying and about 30 to 40 percent of frontline health workers are now sick,” Leachon disclosed.
“Patients also die because hospitals are overwhelmed. These patients in private hospitals are admitted only at the ER (emergency rooms) because these hospitals do not want the other areas to be contaminated (for the safety of the other patients),” he added.
Leachon also demanded data on the donations the government has received from donors, including numbers and recipients for those it released. It would help track which areas are in need and which hospitals have enough.
“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail,” he said. “People in government are stonewalling it. Lots of PUI (persons under investigation) are dying without their test results. A lot of PUI are roaming around without being confirmed as (infectious) carriers.”
The Philippines, in recent days, received a number of donations from various sources. But various hospitals have been crying for PPE, masks and other gears to protect its frontliners.
The DoH, on Friday, received the first batch of the donation to the Philippines by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation in the form of two million face masks, testing kits for 150,000 people, 20,000 protective suits and 20,000 face shields the country shares with Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Jack Ma Foundation said the second batch of medical supplies are expected to arrive in Manila next week.
The Tzu Chi Foundation had sent PPE to the Philippines. These are with the Bureau of Customs. Many other donors are being asked by the DoH to communicate directly with the department.
Bureaucratic red tape, however, is delaying the release of some of these donations.
Malacañang, meanwhile, has created a technical working group (TWG) for “anticipatory and forward planning” that will be in charge of setting up a “new normal” state once the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon ends on 14 April.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the technical working group was created by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and it will oversee the set-up of the so-called “new normal” setting in a bid to flatten the coronavirus disease.
“We call it new normal because unless a vaccine is created, the COVID-19 threat will remain,” said Nograles, adding that communities with COVID-19 cases will be isolated while those with no cases can resume their economic activities.
Nograles added that the new TWG was directed to develop detailed recommendations in the rebuilding of consumer and business confidence, along with the resumption of a new normal state of economic activities as well as strategic stockpiling amid the pandemic.
The NEDA will serve as lead agency of the TWG while the members will be composed of the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.
“We are looking at it day by day. When it comes to the decision if the quarantine will be extended, it’s still too early to tell,” Nograles said.
Late Friday night, he addressed the public and disclosed that the national government has ordered all local government units (LGU) in the country to identify facilities that could be temporarily designated for isolation or quarantine purposes amid the threat of the coronavirus disease.
The Cabinet Secretary stressed that LGU in the provincial, city, municipal, and barangay levels, as well as those in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, have been directed to identify these government facilities.
Nograles — who is also the IATF spokesman — noted that the Department of Tourism and other government agencies were directed to coordinate with entities under their respective regulatory authorities, as applicable, in identifying facilities that may be temporarily designated for isolation or quarantine purposes.
According to the Palace official, all identified facilities shall be reported to the National Incident Command of the National Task Force on COVID-19 and the Task Group on Resource Management and Logistics.
Under heavy criticisms, the DoH identified the San Lazaro Hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Southern Philippines Medical Center and the Baguio General Hospitals as agency lab centers. They were given 5,000 test kits each.
with ELMER N. MANUEL