HomeNewsHealthcare workers dispense ‘second opinion’ on Philippine response to pandemic

Healthcare workers dispense ‘second opinion’ on Philippine response to pandemic

Even as President Rodrigo Duterte placed Metro Manila and surrounding provinces under a lockdown for two more weeks, healthcare workers have continued to press government for changes in its response to the pandemic.

The lockdown, officially called Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine, was Duterte’s response to the demand of healthcare workers for a “time out” as coronavirus cases continue to pile up in the Philippine capital.

The healthcare workers’ demands for a “time out” quickly garnered public support, with the Archdiocese of Manila and the Supreme Court issuing memoranda calling on churches and courts to pause Masses and court activities for two weeks.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, apostolic administrator of the Manila episcopate, and Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta made their calls ahead of the president.

But is a “time out” enough?

For the independent healthcare workers’ group Second Opinion PH, the problem is the policy framework of the government’s response which it described as “militarist”.

In a controversial statement, Second Opinion PH called for a “Demilitarized Medical Quarantine” starting with changes in the leadership of the pandemic response.

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It also called for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and the removal of retired military generals dominating the Inter-Agency Task Force, which oversees the pandemic response.

“We call for an end to all militarist and fascist measures being done in the name of quarantine. Too many lives of healthcare workers have been needlessly lost due to the wrong priorities taken by this criminally-negligent, corrupt, and tyrannical government,” said the statement.

Referring to the issue of lockdowns, the statement said: “If we are to implement a quarantine, it must be a MEDICAL QUARANTINE, with healthcare workers in the lead and with clear health goals and outcomes. To truly benefit our overburdened healthcare workers, a new framework and new leadership direction than the ones we currently have are imperative.”

Apart from a Demilitarized Medical Quarantine and leadership changes, Second Opinion PH also recommended other measures:

  • Active and aggressive recruitment of additional HCWs (ie. 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses)
  • Immediate provision of P90-billion in fresh funds for both national and local government interventions, with clear transparency and accountability
  • Ensuring the continuity of care from the primary to the tertiary levels and between public and private health facilities, and the provision of services for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients
  • Enhancing capacities in testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment at the institutional and community level, and utilizing appropriate technologies in the promotion of preventive and public health measures
  • Immediate improvement of COVID-19 data processing and management, by full disclosure of sources and manner of processing, and depoliticizing COVID-19 data by providing better access

The statement was signed by doctors Gene Nisperos, Geneve Rivera-Reyes, Darby Santiago, Leonard Javier, and Soraya Escandor, and by registered nurse Sean Velchez.

At least 216 other healthcare workers from various fields and specialties have since added their names to the statement.

Duterte has repeatedly defended Duque from public outrage and demands for his resignation or removal.

Duterte’s pandemic response has been led since March by retired military and police officials.

On Monday, the Department of Health reported over 3,000 new cases for the 12th straight day, further pushing the Philippines ahead of Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of COVID statistics.

As of August 10, the government reported 136,638 coronavirus cases across the country, up by 6,958 from the previous day’s report.

The lockdown ends this week.

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