MANILA - There is a “big gap” that has to be filled in terms of the supply of personal protective equipment for health workers in the Philippines now, a Taiwan-based charity foundation said Thursday, admitting the challenge in sourcing it at a time it is most needed to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Dr. Anton Lim, a board member of the Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, told ANC the need per hospital depends on the facility’s size, citing for example the Philippine General Hospital, an identified COVID-19 center that requires “hundreds” of the protective medical gear.
“There’s really a big gap and not only because there’s nothing available locally, or if there are, it’s really overpriced,” Lim said.
“So, it’s not even if you have the funds to purchase. It’s very hard to look for one. So, we really have to source it abroad,” he added.
Lim emphasized the importance of the PPEs to be able to sustain the health workforce in the country.
“We don’t have enough of our heroes right now. And we don’t want to lose any of them,” he said of the country’s medical frontliners, many of whom have gone on quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 patients while several have succumbed to the disease.
“The soonest we get those PPEs out, the soonest we get to purchase these PPEs, the better for them, the better to protect them… If we lose one doctor, that means we’re adding to the burden.”
“And we’re not just talking about doctors. We have to think about the nurses, about the other frontliners also in the hospitals, like the auxiliary staff in the hospitals,” Lim said.
The organization is also concerned about the availability of face masks as it gets “calls for help from frontliners who have not changed their mask for the past 3 days.”
Lim said that whatever supply is available to the foundation, “we deliver it immediately,” including PPEs and close to 180,000 surgical and N95 masks that were distributed “all over Metro Manila and [to] all our liaison offices in Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga.”
With the help of its headquarters in Taiwan, Lim disclosed the foundation “is actively procuring” PPEs from China where they can get “in bulk and also at a price that is cost-effective for the donors.”
Lim said the foundation is expecting a shipment soon, but did not say the volume.
“The need is just great. We just hope that customs will help ease the movement of these materials,” he said, referring to the foundation’s expected shipment.
In light also of the economic impact of the pandemic, which has temporarily shut businesses, Lim appealed for donations from anyone willing to help to make up for a lot of the foundation’s usual donors that “have to help out their employees also.”
“We have to protect our heroes. We have to protect our frontliners. Please help us by donating. Any amount, when put together, will amount to a lot of good,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Philippines has confirmed 636 COVID-19 cases, including 38 deaths and 26 recoveries.