DOH non-committal on ECQ call of medical frontliners

    File photo. IATF meeting in Malacañang. (Photo by KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

    HEEDING the cry of medical frontliners, the Department of Health (DOH) has vowed to push their appeal for a “timeout” in the war against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but stopped short from committing to endorse to President Duterte the reimposition of an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR).

    In a statement dated late Saturday but released on Sunday morning, the DOH reiterated it is one with the more than 80 medical societies and organizations in calling for a temporary break for the “overwhelmed” health care system and an evaluation of the present strategy against the novel virus.

    “We support the call of our frontliners to ensure a science-based approach and stricter implementation of community quarantines measures,” said the DOH.

    “In our dialogue earlier with the medical community, we have committed to advocate for the call for a timeout for NCR in our IATF meeting,” it added.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Charlie Galvez Jr., testing czar Vivencio Dizon, presidential spokesman Harry Roque and other senior government officials on Saturday met with the representatives of the Philippine Medical Association, the Philippine Nurses Association and the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists to discuss the concerns of the medical community amid the challenges of COVID-19.

    The select Cabinet members also met with Executive Secretary Medialdea on Saturday night after their meeting with the medical community. A recommendation was set to be submitted on Sunday night by the Cabinet to the President with regards the concerns and appeal of the medical representatives.

    But while the DOH promised to “advocate” the recommendation of the medical groups, it did not categorically state whether or it was in favor of the return to ECQ for the NCR.

    The DOH said it agrees with the healthcare sector that the temporary timeout will buy it the needed time to refine and revisit strategies to meet the evolving nature of the global pandemic.

    It added that such a reprieve can give them the critical space to marshal resources that will help the country win the fight.

    “The battle is not over, and it will not be for a long time yet. But this is where, with you, we are drawing a line in the sand and stating strongly and without hesitation that, from this point on, we will marshal all our efforts to turn the tide,” said the DOH.


    In a separate statement also on Saturday night, Duque said the government is hearing the cries of healthcare workers (HCW) who have been working non-stop since the start of the outbreak.

    “The past five months have taken their toll on the whole country, most especially our healthcare workers. In response to your call, we commit to do more to care for our carers,” said Duque.

    “Fellow health workers, please know that as the Secretary of Health, I hear your pleas… We hear you,” assured the health chief, who is also the chairman of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

    In its statement, the DOH vowed to revisit their strategy with the help of the wide range of health sector stakeholders and develop an updated one within one week.

    Among the measures they intend to improve on is on how to proactively lead the implementation of effective localized lockdowns with the National Task Force in support of local government units.

    Another is the creation of a rapid response team of trained medical workers who can help prevent the health system of the NCR from being overrun.

    It said the government will also be openly asking assistance from all health care workers to help out their colleagues, brothers, and sisters in Metro Manila.

    The DOH also asked universities and medical societies to help in hiring more doctors, nurses, and other medical staff.

    “It is not an understatement to say that your brethren in the NCR need your help,” said the DOH.

    It assured those who will enlist in the campaign and answer the call shall be provided hazard pay, accommodations, transport, PPE, and even psycho-social, emotional, and mental support.


    It also vowed to fully implement the newly-created One Hospital Command system, which will help prevent hospitals from going on full capacity.

    “Those that require facility admission, be it in TTMFs or hospitals, will be aided by the One Hospital Command System. It is currently operating 24 hours to respond to triage cases and placing them in appropriate facilities,” said the agency.

    The DOH said it will also provide a road map and technical assistance to ensure that LGUs put in place effective contact tracing operations.

    “We reiterate the need to hire an additional 50,000 contact tracers and to scale up their training and deployment to hot spots nationwide and mobilize/capacitate BHERTS and BHWS to serve as the navigator and coordinator in a true primary care approach,” said the DOH.

    Finally, the DOH said it will reiterate its appeal to Filipino citizens to help ensure that our health system and health care front liners are not overwhelmed.

    “We emphasize the need for each and every Filipino to rise up to the challenge and be part of the solution — by making sure that he or she correctly and diligently practices wearing masks, washing hands, and physical distancing,” said the DOH.

    Last Saturday, more than 80 medical organizations and societies made a unified call for the national government to reimpose ECQ in Metro Manila for at least two weeks, from August 1 ti 15.

    According to the medical societies, the two-week “timeout” is already necessary as the country is already “waging a losing battle against COVID-19.”

    “Healthcare workers are united in sounding off a distress signal to the nation: our healthcare system has been overwhelmed,” said the unified statement signed by Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) president Dr. Mario Panaligan.

    “Hence, we, as your healthcare frontliners call on our national government to return Mega Manila to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for a period of two weeks, from August 1 to 15,” he said.

    Panaligan said the timeout is necessary since healthcare workers are already falling ill as they take care of patients, while battling the fear and anxiety that COVID-19 brings.

    Other healthcare workers, he added, are already burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to hospitals for emergency care and admission.

    “The health sector cannot hold the line for much longer. Our health care workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately our poor who are most compromised,” they claimed.