$125M loan to boost PH COVID response


    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help the Philippine government boost the capacity of its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response through a recently approved $125 million loan, the multilateral agency said in a statement yesterday.

    The ADB said the Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 Project will enable the Department of Health (DOH) to improve health services across the country through the upgrading of medical equipment and related training.

    “This project will help improve the preparedness and resilience of the country’s health systems at the national and local levels in handling current and future public health threats.

    It will also contribute to the Philippines’ efforts toward implementing universal health coverage,” Ahmed Saeed, ADB vice president, said.

    “The project will help the government scale up its ability to conduct COVID-19 tests, surveillance, and infection prevention and control, and provide critical care equipment to improve treatment outcomes,” Sakiko Tanaka, ADB principal social sector specialist for Southeast Asia, also said.

    The ADB pointed out the government is seeking to more than double the daily COVID-19 testing capacity to 75,000 by the end of the year, compared with nearly 31,000 as of August 15.

    The project will provide medical equipment, including electrocardiography machines and defibrillators, to 17 major hospitals across the country and upgrade their laboratories and isolation facilities; provide ventilators to 70 DOH hospitals and 20 island local government hospitals; install computed tomography scan machines in 33 hospitals nationwide to improve clinical management of COVID-19 cases; deliver test kits, chemicals and reagents to at least 10 government molecular laboratories to increase their COVID-19 testing capacity; and provide personal protective equipment to frontline health workers and laboratory technicians.

    In addition, the project will fund the training of staff and laboratory technicians on how to operate and maintain the equipment.

    Doctors and nurses in obstetrics, pediatric and emergency departments will learn how to reduce infection and control virus transmission, the ADB said.

    Health workers will also learn how to provide psycho-social support to patients and families, including pregnant women and other vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19, the Manila-based agency added.

    The project complements an ADB grant to the DOH which was approved on March 14 to build a pandemic subnational reference laboratory in the Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga, with a daily output of 3,000 COVID-19 tests. The laboratory has been up and running since May 2020.