MANILA – Concerned netizens have on Monday called for the immediate resignation of Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque to save the country from the coronavirus (COVID-19) scourge.
Netizens assailed in particular the DOH’s ineptitude and sluggishness in handling COVID-19 tests which they said as the main cause of growing cases as the agency allows possible virus carriers to freely roam and infect more people before they can be tested accordingly.
“Because of this, the number of infected individuals could really be higher than what we have now (1,418),” a netizen said. “And that’s very dangerous.”
“Maraming infected na hindi pa nate-test ng DOH at sila ay malayang nakikisalamuha sa kani-kanilang mga kamag anak at kaibigan at mga nakatabi,” another post on social media said.
“Kaya padami ng padami ang infected pero di pa nalalaman ng DOH hanggang ngayon,” he said.
Up to now, the DOH has yet to utilize hundreds of thousands of donated rapid-testing kits similar to what China used in containing the spread of the virus along with other European countries.
China recently donated 100,000 test kits while Alibaba’s Jack Ma contributed 57,000 pieces of rapid COVID-19 test kits through the office of Sen. Manny Pacquiao.
Aside from this, a group of local scientists from the University of the Philippines also came up and invented fast coronavirus testing kits that were subsequent approved by the Food and Drug Administration but the DOH remain adamant on using them.
At present, the DOH only uses Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) based test kits, which is allegedly the current recommended testing kit for COVID-19 in the country.
The RT-PCR is considered as of “gold standard” because of its accuracy according to DOH Usec. Rosario Vergeire but the downside of which is the long process before PCR tests results are obtained.
Due to backlogs and all, Vergeire said it takes the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine days before a patient gets her/his COVID-19 result, which according to netizens, a very crucial part as much as the country’s efforts at flattening the curb of the virus is concerned.
As leadership change at DOH is being floated by worried netizens, several names came up as possible replacement of Duque and these are Cong. Tony Leachon of Mindoro and former Masbate Representative Scott Davies Lanete.
The netizens said both the congressmen possess better administrative acumen compared to Duque.
Aside from Duque, netizens are also calling the immediate replacement as spokesperson or outright resignation of Vergeire whom they said had been flip-flopping on her media announcements lately.
Vergeire particularly made a grave error over her announcement that 40% of thousands of rapid COVID-19 test kits donated by China were inferior and sub-par only to reverse her statement and apologize later when the Chinese embassy wrote the DOH a strongly worded letter about the incident claiming it will not by all means donate defective kits.
“It was an honest mistake,” Vergeire said adding the “defective kits” allegedly came from another batch of donated items.
A potential replacement for Vergeire a netizen said, is no other than FDA Director General Eric Domingo.
Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian said he is appalled over what he calls a sluggish COVID-19 testing capacity of the DOH.
The senator recently found out that the DOH has yet to accredit any hospital to carry out COVID-19 testing even after pronouncements made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the newly delivered test kits from South Korea and China are now available for commercial use.
He pointed out that even if more testing kits become available, these kits cannot be fully utilized if the DOH would not capacitate and accredit hospitals to use them.
Gatchalian is urging the DOH to fast-track accrediting the hospitals for COVID-19 testing to boost the country’s testing capacity and test more people at risk.
“Papaano natin mabibigyan ng agarang tulong medikal ang mga taong nanganganib ang kalusugan dahil sa COVID-19 at mapigilan ang mabilis na pagkalat nito kung hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa pinapahintulutan ng DOH ang mga ospital na gamitin ang mga bagong testing kits,” said Gatchalian.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro has expressed frustration that up to this time the city cannot use its Molecular Laboratory and procure test kits as the DOH has yet to certify the local laboratory.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) said that all LGUs must first coordinate with the DOH before acquiring, purchasing or utilizing testing kits within their respective territorial jurisdictions.
The DOH had said that in addition to the current 1,300 available kits and the two thousand fifty (2,050) recently delivered from China and South Korea, it is anticipating additional 120,500 units from different countries, such as China, Korea, and Brunei.
The UP National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Philippine Genome Center, and manufacturer The Manila HealthTek Inc. are working to meet the government’s order of 26,000 testing kits developed by the UP NIH.
At less than P1,500 each, these kits are significantly cheaper and cuts waiting time for results from 24 hours to less than two hours.
To date, four subnational laboratories have been prepared to process COVID-19 testing: San Lazaro Hospital, and Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for Luzon, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center for Visayas, and Southern Philippines Medical Center for Mindanao.
Five private hospitals are being eyed by the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO) as possible extension laboratories. These are St. Luke’s Medical Center-Global City, Makati Medical Center, The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City, and Chinese General Hospital.
Solons favor rapid COVID-19 test kits
Meanwhile, four members of the Lower House on the government to immediately work on acquiring more test kits and medical supplies as coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases continue to rise.
Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman said the “valiant efforts of the Philippine health authorities, private health facilities, healthcare frontliners and local government officials against the Covid-19 pandemic must be immediately complemented with more test kits.
Lagman said the country’s mortality rate is at a high of 6.32 percent, higher than the 2.52 percent in the top 15 afflicted Asian countries and the 3.80 percent in the top 12 countries worldwide.
ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Niña Taduran also urged the DoH to consider the use of rapid testing kits aside from the polymerase chain reaction or PCR kits to step up mass testing of people with Covid-19 symptoms. Taduran called for the immediate approval of the rapid test kits developed by the Filipino scientists and from other sources.
She also underscored the need for the DoH and the local government units to immediately set up laboratories and testing areas.
“Mass testing has helped South Korea flatten the curve. This will enable the frontliners to identify immediately who needs to be isolated, and this will prevent the spread of the virus,” Taduran said.
Michael Defensor of the Anakalusugan party-list and Precious Castelo of the Quezon City Second District also called for Covid-19 testing for pneumonia patients.
“If we do not test them, we will never know if they are positive for the fast-spreading coronavirus disease. It’s good if they do not have the virus. But what if they have it?” Defensor said. (ia/sovereignph.com)