Health workers will now be more equipped to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic following the deployment of medical protective items as promised by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a televised public address late Monday night, Duterte bared that the government is deploying the resources of government to provide frontline health workers with “everything they require so they can save as many lives as possible”.
“We are now procuring medical supplies, devices, and personal protective equipment,” he said.
He said about one million medical protective items are being acquired right now, with the government and the private sector working together to purchase or produce the necessary quantities.
Aside from donations to add to its stockpile, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) is currently finalizing a plan to donate seized personal protective equipment (PPE) to private hospitals.
The government is also increasing its capacity to test more broadly to take a fuller and more accurate picture of the spread of Covid-19 in the country, Duterte added.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Department of Health approved the use of five rapid testing kits to detect Covid-19 but only under the supervision of trained health professionals.
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) also said that locally-developed testing kits will also be commercially available starting April 3.
The Manila HealthTek Inc.-manufactured testing kits were developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health and the Philippine Genome Center.
A total of 1,300 testing kits will be manufactured for field implementation and distribution to the hospitals while the remaining kits will be sold for PHP1,300 per kit, cheaper than the ones being used at hospitals which cost about PHP8,000.
Before the signing of the Bayanihan to Heal as One (Republic Act 11469) law that declares a national emergency and gives him special powers, Duterte said the government was short of funds and medical supplies.
He, meanwhile, vowed to exercise two specific powers under the Bayanihan law “only when absolutely necessary”.
These are the power to direct the operation of private establishments and the power to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services necessary for the crisis.
The executive branch is required to submit a report to Congress every Monday on how Duterte’s special powers are used. The report must include the amount and corresponding utilization of funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated, and realigned.
He also vowed to “build, operate, and accredit” more medical facilities and laboratories in the coming weeks.
Health workers’ heroism
Recognizing their sacrifices, Duterte thanked health workers and assured them that their efforts will be rewarded.
“Your heroism will not be forgotten. Saludo kami sa inyo (We salute you),” he said.
He also praised health workers who lost their lives while fighting Covid-19.
“May mga doktor na, mga nurses, attendants, namatay. Sila ‘yung nasawi ang buhay para lang makatulong sa kapwa (There are doctors, nurses, attendants who have died. They are the ones who lost their lives to help others). It would be an honor to die for your country, I assure you,” he said.
He said he was concerned about the health and well-being of other health workers, especially those who would leave behind their families.
“Let the thought comfort you that I really worry about you, that I worry that you will not be able to reach old age with your children and grandchildren,” he said.
He also thanked foreign governments, businesses, organizations, and private individuals for their “overwhelming” donations and support addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“On behalf of the Filipino people, I thank you [for your] compassion and your generosity, and my personal gratitude,” he said.
Under the Bayanihan law, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is required to give PHP1 million to the families of health workers who die due to Covid-19.
A total of PHP100,000 will also be given to health workers who contract severe Covid-19 infection while in the line of duty. (Azer Parrocha/PNA)