By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Several groups expressed support to the health care professionals’ call for timeout amid the rising cases of coronavirus disease 2019 in the country and overwhelmed health care system.
On Saturday, Aug. 1, at least 40 medical societies sent their letter to President Duterte calling for a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Mega Manila “to refine pandemic control strategies.”
“We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19 and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action,” they said in the letter.
The medical frontliners urged the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to address the following issues: hospital workforce efficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, workplace safety, public compliance with self-protection, [and] social amelioration.
In a statement, Gene Nisperos, a community medicine practitioner and University of the Philippines professor,said that the Malacanang should take this seriously “rather than take its usual cavalier attitude.”
“This should be a wake up call for the Duterte government. The press con itself is one big commentary on how the govt (mis)handled the COVID-19 response and on the poor and inadequate leadership of the Department of Health and IATF,” Nisperos said.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, also maintained that the call of health professionals is “an indictment of the failed COVID-19 response of the government.”
Reyes said Duterte relied on a militarist population method to control the spread of the virus. He added that the three months of ECQ had been wasted because “testing was not ramped up and the necessary upgrade of the health system was not undertaken.”
“The strict quarantine, at the early months of the pandemic, was supposed to buy the health system time to adjust to the increase in COVID patients, while undertaking mass testing while the population was still in place. This was not done,” he said.
Duque should go
Amid the bleak situation, Citizens Urgent Response to End Covid-19 (CURE Covid) urged Duterte to replace Health Secretary Francisco Duque and the former generals who are in-charge of the IATF.
The group said that the people need competent health experts and professionals and “not political players and ex-generals, at the helm of our COVID-19 response.”
The group lamented that the urgent appeal of our COVID-19 frontliners, as well as the sound recommendations of Vice President Leni Robredo, CURE Covid and other groups for a comprehensive, effective, humane, participatory and transparent response to the crisis have repeatedly fallen on the deaf ears of the DOH and the IATF. the group said.
Nisperos also said that the removal of Duque as well as the replacement of the entire DOH and IATF leadership “is imperative at this point.”
He said that the COVID-19 response will not improve “if it is still under the same lackluster, reactive, and punitive leadership of generals and military men. We need decisive and competent leadership from the health sector.”
Mega Manila consists of the National Capital Region, Central Luzon, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon (Calabarzon) and Mindoro, Marinduque, Rombon, and Palawan (Mimaropa).