'Nakakagalit': Health workers' groups enraged over COA findings on PPEs

Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 11 2022 06:20 PM

A health worker fixes her face mask  ABS-CBN News/file
A health worker fixes her face mask at a testing center in Navotas City on August 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA – Health workers’ groups are enraged over findings by a Commission on Audit 2021 report which highlighted the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management’s "lack of due diligence" in the procurement of personal protective equipment. 

This after finding out that the PPEs were unauthorized for sale or public use.

Jocelyn Andamo, Secretary-General of the Filipino Nurses United, said that certification and regulation are important to ensure the quality of PPEs and the safety of the healthcare workers who will use them.

"Kung hindi natin 'yan sinusunod at binalewala natin, mismong ahensiya ng gobyerno ang nagbabalewala. Ito ay nakakagalit dahil buhay at kaligtasan ng mga health worker ang nakasalalay dito," she said.

(If we do not follow that and just take it for granted, the very government agency will just neglect it. I am furious because the life and safety of health workers are at stake here.)

A Certificate of Medical Device Notification (CMDN) is required for PPEs and serves as proof that the product has been notified with the Philippine FDA prior to its manufacture, importation, exportation, and distribution. 

According to the COA report, notification of the FDA "is an added security that the personal protective equipment has gone through the evaluation process of the FDA in order to ensure its quality and safety."

State auditors, however, found that five suppliers failed to submit the CMDN despite it being a requirement under FDA Circular 2020-31. 

Two contracts related to PPEs, on the other hand, did not include the CDMN in their TSs.

"The PS did not exercise due diligence in procuring the personal protective equipment items, neither in crafting the TSs nor in the review and evaluation of the technical capacity of the supplier to deliver the goods to be procured using the non-discretionary criteria," the COA report read.

"In the absence of the CMDN for the personal protective equipment items procured, the personal protective equipment were not authorized for sale or public use. Consequently, the PS cannot assure its client-agencies of the safety of the personal protective equipment especially to the medical staff users who are directly exposed to the COVID-19 virus during this pandemic."

Andamo said that the findings could also explain why a lot of health workers have fallen sick while tending to patients struck by the virus.

The PS-DBM, in response to the findings, said that the CDMN "is only required if the personal protective equipment is to be commercially sold in the local market."

“It is safe to say that the personal protective equipment were procured during extraordinary times. These medical supplies were procured amidst shifting quarantine classifications, community lockdowns, shifting work arrangements and persisting effects brought about by COVID-19. Thus, it is important to take into consideration that existing rules and regulations may, if not inapplicable, be very difficult to implement considering the unpredictable and constantly changing situations during those times,” it said.

But for Alliance of Healthcare Workers President Robert Mendoza, this is not an excuse.

"Hindi rason na dahil may pandemiya ay hindi na dapat ito dumaan sa ganitong pagsusuri. Hindi excuse. Dapat talaga may managot dito sa nangyayari sa usapin ng PPEs," he said.

(The pandemic can't be used to excuse them from scrutiny. It's not an excuse. Someone should be held accountable for this PPE mess.)

Mendoza added that lawmakers must investigate the matter, especially after the pandemic supplies corruption issues hounded Pharmally and the previous administration. 

The findings failed to secure at least 11 signatures from senators that were required for former Senator and Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Richard Gordon to sponsor it at the plenary.

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