Poor leadership affecting Philippines' pandemic response, says community doctor

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 15 2021 09:03 AM | Updated as of Apr 15 2021 01:03 PM

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MANILA - The Philippines is still struggling to stay on top of the COVID-19 crisis because of poor leadership and mixed messaging, a community doctor observed Thursday.

Speaking to ANC, Dr. Gene Nisperos, board member of Community Medicine Development Foundation, lamented the lack of effective public health messaging, which is crucial in curbing the pandemic.

"The government looks like a headless chicken. It doesn't know what it's doing. One agency will say something, which will be contradicted by another agency later on," he said. 

"Messaging is very, very crucial. It tells people you are on top of the situation. You know exactly what's happening. It gives people that sense of confidence. It gives people that sense of assurance that the government is doing everything they can against this pandemic. Unfortunately, what we're having is really bad messaging. Messaging that contradicts each other," he added. 

The new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has so far infected over 892,000 in the country and more than 15,000 people have died, according to a government tally. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

Nisperos, who also teaches at the UP College of Medicine, said there were still gaps in the pandemic response such as strengthening the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams or BHERTs.

"If we wanted to win this fight, we have to start at the ground. The communities, it's where the infection occurs, that’s where it spreads but unfortunately that’s where the health-care system is weakest," he said.

He also criticized the government's pandemic task force, which is composed mainly of retired army generals.

"You listen to the President when he speaks on COVID. Does he look like he is well-vetted, he's well-briefed on the situation? On what COVID is all about? I mean, you don't get that sense from him, much less from your DOH secretary," he said.

Despite being heavily criticized for its response to the pandemic, Malacañang said in March the government showed "excellent" management of the crisis.

A consultant to the government's task force had also said the Philippines was faring better than other countries in responding to the pandemic.