DOH bares recalibrated COVID-19 response after health group's timeout plea

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 07 2020 08:06 PM

Health workers and frontliners ride the free shuttle service provided by the Office of the Vice President on August 4, 2020. The service will run until August 18 to cover the 15-day MECQ period imposed on Metro Manila and nearby provinces to curb the spread of COVID-19. Charlie Villegas, OVP

MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday revealed what it described as an improved response to the global pandemic following the medical community's appeal for a timeout to arrest the swell of COVID-19 cases.

In a virtual forum, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the agency would conduct a joint medical strategy in fighting the virus, which has so far infected nearly 123,000 in the country.

"Kami po dapat ang magpasalamat sa inyo dahil inyo pong tinawag ang aming pansin para tumugon doon sa mahalagang abiso for a timeout," he told the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC).

(We should thank you because you called our attention to respond to this important advise for a timeout.)

Duque, who is facing mounting calls for resignation while being investigated by the Ombudsman in handling the crisis, said the medical community's plea gave DOH a window of opportunity to reassess, review and recalibrate their response.

Health Undersecretary Lilibeth David said the agency had proposed a working group that would address 7 key critical areas of improvement.

These are:

  •  hospital workforce deficiency
  •  case finding and over reliance on rapid test kits 
  •  deficiency in contact tracing
  •  transportation safety
  •  workplace safety
  •  public compliance in self-protection
  •  reopening of industries

The DOH also recently launched the One Hospital Command Center, which will ensure effective and efficient health facility referral in the Philippine capital region, David said.

It has also implemented Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE), a patient- and community-focused response strategy with key elements incorporated from the prevent-detect-isolate-test-treat strategy. 

Key components of CODE include community engagement activities to promote preventive behaviors; active case finding via house-to-house symptom checks; RT-PCR testing for symptomatic patients; and Oplan Kalinga application for those needing quarantine and isolation.

Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president Mario Panaligan said he was elated to be part in drafting a recalibrated response to the crisis.

"Lubos kaming nagagalak dahil naging kabahagi kami sa pagbuo ng komprehensibong programa para mapigilan ang pagdami ng COVID-19 cases sa NCR (National Capital Region)," he said.

(We are very happy because we became part of forming a comprehensive program to stop the spread of COVID-19 in NCR.)

Metro Manila, home to some 12 million people, is the country's epicenter of the virus. It has logged some 66,051 coronavirus infections, data from DOH as of August 7 showed.

It recently reverted to a modified enhanced community quarantine along with surrounding provinces amid a surge in cases traced to the easing of lockdown measures. 

For her part, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire urged the public to continue observing minimum health standards to slow down the transmission of the virus.

"We will also continue to work closely with medical societies to bolster the pandemic response in a timely, quality, patient-centered manner," she said.

To date, the number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines has reached 122,754, with 3,379 new infections reported Friday.

The nationwide caseload includes 2,168 fatalities, 66,852 recoveries and 53,734 active cases.

As the government continues to expand its testing capacity, the Philippines now has the most COVID-19 cases among Southeast Asian nations.