Flattening the curve is an effort of the whole community, and regular folk who aren’t working as medical frontliners are called to practice vigilance in their own way: self-quarantine, practice proper hygiene, and if symptoms start to show, seek medical attention. But doing that last thing is challenging, and near impossible for the most disenfranchised. Hospitals get filled up too easy and there aren’t enough testing kits to go around.
So we’re seeing different groups and organizations from the private sector step up. One such group is Art Rocks, an online art auction group that recently raised over 10 million pesos to purchase testing kits from South Korea and distribute them to Philippine hospitals.
That amount should purchase around 10,000 testing kits. The plan is to distribute it this way, according to Dr. Steve Lim, a founder of Art Rocks: 4,000 to Philippine General Hospital, 1,500 to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City, 1,500 to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, 1,500 for Makati Medical Center, and 1,500 for The Medical City. Art Rocks just got approval from the FDA to import.
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Importing the test kits has its benefits. Locally available test kits cost 1,350 pesos, while imported ones go for a flat 1,000. But what makes these particular test kits so special? According to Dr. Fabio Posas, a cardiologist and member of Art Rocks, as well as an early advocate of testing, they can aid the logistics of diagnosis and treatment.
“They’re RT-PCR (which stands for “real-time polymerase chain reaction”) systems which are the gold standard. The turnaround time is 1.5-2 hours which makes a huge difference in terms of reaction times and in terms of treatment decisions.” To be clear, “turnaround” refers to how quickly diagnosis results become available, and affects the immediacy of patients knowing their status and physicians making decisions. “While they are coming up with some here I do not think they can scale up to meet the needs of the country.”
Dr. Posas continues: “If we are able to identify those who have the virus, we can isolate [them] in safe places and retest them to show they have cleared the virus. China and Korea have done that successfully.”
Dr. Steve Lim founded Art Rocks eight years ago, as a way to help the medical community through art and auctions. The people who comprise Art Rocks are not just doctors, patients, and artists, but also lawyers, businessmen, and public servants. The collective effort began as a way “to augment the training of urology residents and post grad training for the consultants,” Lim states. Now Art Rocks is 250 members strong and has on its team 28 galleries. It’s no surprise they were able to raise funds so quickly. Art Rocks has also donated food, water, soap and masks to medical frontliners working in government facilities.
One member of Art Rocks is Senator Miguel Zubiri, whom you might remember as one of the first politicians to publicly announce he was tested positive for COVID-19. In an official statement, he talks about the availability of test kits and how they should be distributed. He states:
“I feel that the remaining available testing kits should be utilized by those who need them the most, like Frontline medical personnel and Symptomatic patients especially the elderly. In my case I feel that the first and only test I had was accurate as I remembered that I had a slight fever Wednesday last week and was asymptomatic already by Monday after. It’s possible that I’m beating the virus so I will just continue my Isolation for another 8 days to complete the protocol. Whatever test that will be done on me later on will be from the 10,000 kits our private sector group Art Rocks is paying for and bringing in from Korea as donations to frontline hospitals and not from government sources.”
Art Rocks is raising more money to be able to import 12,000 kits instead of the original target of 10,000. It needs PHP1,657,500 more.
Help Art Rocks flatten the curve by donating through this account:
Any amount of help counts!