DOH explains why face shields 'expire' after Senate revelations on Pharmally

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2021 01:19 PM | Updated as of Sep 25 2021 03:33 PM

MANILA— Do face shields expire?

This was the question posed by some social media users on Friday after a Senate hearing revealed that Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. tampered with dates of medical-grade supply meant for health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. 

Some found it hard to believe that face shields, made of plastic, expire, likening it to other plastic products.

But the Department of Health (DOH) explained that medical-grade face shields have a certain shelf life, as the quality of the foams attached to the product degrade over time. 

The ones that medical frontliners use are different from the ones being sold publicly, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire pointed out.

"Just like any medical commodity, mayroon din pong tinatawag na shelf life. Ito pong face shields na binibili namin is not for the community," Vergeire explained in a public briefing.

(Any medical commodity has what we call shelf life. These face shields we are referring to is not for the community.)

"Ito pong mga face shield na ito na maaaring magkaroon ng deterioration over time... mayroon po siyang foam na nakadikit diyan para hindi masakit sa noo ng ating healthcare workers. Ito pong foam na ito over time, nag-pupulverize po 'yan, nadudurog. 'Yung iba nagdi-discolor po 'yan," she added. 

(These medical-grade face shields can deteriorate over time. There is a foam attached for the comfort of health care workers. This foam pulverizes over time, while some have discoloration)

These are the things being taken into consideration when products get delivered, according to the health official. 

Is it dangerous to use face shields beyond their shelf life? 

The DOH said it is not, but it is important that medical grade face shields are of quality to prevent health care workers from contracting diseases. 

"Kailangan siyempre kumpleto at maayos ang maibibigay natin sa kanilang mga gamit para sila ay protektado sa sakit," she said. 

(We need supplies to be complete and of quality for our frontliners, to protect them from sickness.)

A witness supposedly working at a warehouse run by Pharmally on Friday revealed that management asked workers to replace certificate stickers on face shields from 2020 to this year as part of the delivery ordered by DOH.

According to the warehouse staff, they repacked face shields that were already yellowing, folded, wet, old, and even dirty.

Pharmally’s Krizle Grace Mago, meanwhile, confirmed that they changed certification stickers on the face shields. 

But Vergeire said as far as her department is concerned, the items that they delivered to "all" of the country's health workers passed their inspection. 

"Hindi rin po kami tumatanggap talaga ng may sira, or may discoloration, or nasira na 'yung foam, hindi na namin 'yan tinatanggap," she noted.

(We don't accept broken face shields or those with discoloration. Once the foam gets destroyed, we no longer accept it.)

Pharmally, which bagged billions worth of contracts with the government for allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, is facing inquiry at the Senate. 

The budget agency's procurement service (PS-DBM) bought these items as part of their deal with the health department, some products of which were overpriced, according to senators.

One face shield was bought supposedly at a price of P122, documents from the Senate showed.

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Video from PTV