As hiring contact tracers faces funding woes, DOH says volunteers helping out

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 07:50 PM

MANILA — The Department of Health on Tuesday said that, while the country’s 54,000 contact tracers are still not enough to help in the COVID-19 response, there are individuals and groups helping out in local communities.

“Our current number is about 54,000 for the whole Philippines,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing on Tuesday morning.

The World Health Organization’s ideal ratio for contact tracers is one for every 800 individuals in a community. 

“Aabot ka ng mga 130,000 plus. Kapag mininus mo ngayon ’yung current na meron tayo sa numero na ’yan, malaki pa talaga ang diperensya,” Vergeire said.

(That will be around 130,000 plus for the Philippines. When you subtract from that the current number that we have, there is still a large difference.)

Back in May, Vergeire said the Philippines needed at least 120,000 contact tracers. At that time, the country had 38,000 employed. To hire the remaining 95,000 contact tracers, she said the country needed P11.7 billion.

“Bakit hindi pa tayo makapag-hire ng napakadami? I think part of the issue would be the funding. Kasi di ba, nu’ng kinompute natin ’yan, malaking pera ang kailangan mo para ma-hire mo for at least 3 months,” the health official said. 

(Why are we not able to hire many? I think part of the issue would be the funding. Because when we computed, we saw that we need a lot of money to hire them for 3 months.)

But Vergeire said the public should look at the other members of the local community who are serving as contact tracers on a part-time or unofficial basis.

“Like for example, ’yung mga Bureau of Fire tumutulong na rin sila ngayon. ’Yung mga ibang mga civil society organizations sa mga bawat local government may mga tumutulong na rin. So kasama sila dapat sa binibilang natin,” she said.

(Like for example, the Bureau of Fire is able to help. There are also civil society organizations in the local government helping out. They should also be counted.)

Vergeire said another challenge is the need to hire contact tracers who are college graduates.

In April, Vergeire said contact tracers are ideally from a medical or a related profession. But with the local government units doing the hiring, the DOH recommended they be graduates of any 4-year course. 

Vergeire said this is because contact tracers are also responsible for educating the public about COVID-19.

They will also be part of the monitoring team.

“For now pilit nating hinihikayat ang LGUs to hire more,” she said.

(For now, we are really encouraging the LGUs to hire more.)