• Melo Acuna

Two-week time-out requested by medical professionals

Medical professionals call for “time-out” to recalibrate strategies vs COVID-19

MANILA – Doctors and nurses from both government and private health facilities called for the re-imposition of an “Enhanced Community Quarantine” (ECQ) in Mega Manila beginning today until August 15 after a significant increase in COVID-19 cases across the country.

In a virtual press briefing, different professional organizations led by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), the groups proposed for a two-week ECQ and recommended measures to stem the increase in COVID-19 cases immediately.

They cited the hospital workforce deficiency as NCR-based hospitals are being overwhelmed by the alarming increase of COVID-19 cases lately.

“The workforce is effectively reduced because of the need for intermittent quarantine of personnel and isolation for many who have fallen ill. To compound this, many have resigned because of fear, fatigue, and poor working conditions. Facilities have had to close because of these problems,” the doctors said.

They also cited the failure of case finding and isolation and Rapid Testing-PCR is being denied patients with symptoms. Local government units, the doctors said, that do tests continue to insist on using inappropriate rapid anti-body tests to identify cases of COVID-19, and sending home patients with symptoms who test negative. The medical professionals said this practice may be responsible for the surge in cases these days because rapid tests miss more than half of people with active, contagious illness. They also observed patients with disease confirmed by RT PCR are being turned away from isolation centers and forced to isolate in homes “where this is hardly feasible.”

The various medical groups also cited the failure of contact tracing and quarantine.

“Contact tracing is failing miserably. DOH and IATF guidance exists but LGU compliance is optional,” they said in their statement. There is a need for these guidelines to be channeled to community leaders, health officers and local authorities and strictly enforced as they underscored the need for whole-of-society approach integrating use of non-uniformed personnel and volunteers.

The various medical associations were one in saying transportation safety cannot be addressed by touted and widely-publicized Build, Build, Build long-tern infrastructure plans. They said what the country and people need are programs of service contracting, pop-up bicycle and pedestrian lanes.

“We need these now, not next year, because people need to get to work but have no safe transport options,” they said.

They said workplace safety is assured in many high-income settings but “there is a clear failure for people with lower income.” While employees and laborers are required by LGUs and their companies to have rapid antibody tests, despite international agreement that these antibody tests are not recommended for work clearance as it leads to missed cases and local outbreaks. They sympathized with workers because employees and laborers, already impoverished by the lockdown are still asked to defray the tests.

The statement mentioned the progressive lifting of quarantine “has unwittingly fueled public misconception that the pandemic is getting better.

“It is not. The progressive decline in compliance will push us to the brink to become the next New York City 0 where COVID-19 patients die at home or in stretchers, unable to find vacancies. The first line of defense is the public, so the people need to be reminded that we need to use masks and face shields, wash hands and practice social distance – now more than ever,” the statement concluded.

Th also called on the government to reconsider the recent decision by the Department of Trade and Industry which approved the reopening of businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, tutorial services, review centers, internet cafes, pet grooming services and drive-in cinemas previously closed due to community quarantine without the said recommendations. (Melo M. Acuña)

Dr. Jose P. Santiago, Jr., President Philippine Medical Association reading the letter sent to President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials on their call for a two-week "time-out" to recalibrate strategies vs COVID-19. (Screen Grab from Philippine College of Physicians' virtual press briefing/Melo M. Acuna)

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