Doctors Reveal Proposed Plan Submitted to IATF

It calls for "behavioral change," among other things.

PHOTO BY Jerome Ascano

(SPOT.ph) The Philippines has been under varying degrees of community quarantine since March, making it the longest lockdown in the whole world. But still the number of COVID-19 cases has gone up to 161,253 with 2,665 deaths as of August 18, according to the Department of Health. Medical frontliners called for a "timeout" as hospitals are being pushed to the brink of shutdown because healthcare workers themselves are getting infected by the coronavirus and COVID-19 beds are full. The government's response was a two-week Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine that ends in Metro Manila today, August 18. 

"Ang layunin po ng lockdown na hiningi namin ay para mag-usap [at] magplano para pag na-lift po meron na tayong action. Para kaya na nating ibalik ang hanapbuhay at negosyo," Dr. Antonio Dans of the Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine explained during a virtual briefing by Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 on August 18, 10 a.m. This echoes the statement of Dr. Aileen Espina (Philippine Academy of Family Physicians) that the systems in place should prioritize both life and livelihood of Filipinos. "Dapat magkaagapay ang buhay at kabuhayan para sa pamilya at bayan," she said.

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With these insights, more than 160 health-professional organizations submitted a proposed plan to the National Task Force against COVID-19 and the Department of Health (DOH). A series of meetings between healthcare workers, the private sector, and various government bodies reveal seven major issues related to pandemic:

  • workforce overload
  • inefficient contact tracing and quarantine
  • inefficient case finding and isolation
  • workplace outbreaks
  • inadequate and unsafe transport options
  • poor public compliance to safety protocols
  • worsening inequalities

"Kung gagamitin po natin ang lockdown para pababain ang dami ng kaso tapos babalik din tayo sa dati nating ginagawa, di pa rin tayo nagpo-protect ng sarili, di pa rin coordinated ang hospitals, mahihirapan po tayo," Dr. Dans added.

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Dr. Aileen Espina explained the recommendations of the HPAAC 
PHOTO BY Facebook/Covid-19 Action Network Philippines

In response to these issues in our healthcare system, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance against COVID-19 (HPAAC) developed a unified plan that focuses on the following:

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  • expansion of the One Hospital Command to the One COVID Referral Network
  • enforcement of the policy on workplace safety
  • strengthening the role of science in the decision-making process of government
  • entities through the Health Technology Assessment Council
  • development and dissemination of unified guidelines on COVID response that can be implemented down to the local level
  • safe, sufficient, and sustainable transport options especially for the poor
  • Internet connectivity for all especially those living in disadvantaged areas
  • equitable access to social amelioration programs
  • development of key messages to inspire behavior change
HPAAC also suggested a comprehensive flowchart for One COVID Referral Network
PHOTO BY Facebook/Covid-19 Action Network Philippines

"Masyado na pong matagal itong five months," Dr. Maria Carmela A. Kasala, a pediatrician from The Medical City said. She also calls for the government's and people's diligence in implementing preventive measures to avoid getting infected by the virus. The doctors also recommend the use of face masks and face shields, washing of hands, and physical distancing as effective health measures.

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"Sa panahon po nitong COVID, kailangan po natin ng pagbabago," Dr. Espina added. She also suggested for everyone to take note and monitor their daily travels, similar to a journal; and as soon as you experience mild symptoms, call up all the people you've been in contact with in the last two days and request that they don't leave their homes while you wait for the results of your COVID-19 test.

When asked to rate what happened in the last two weeks on a scale of one to 10, Dr. Dans gave a score of eight. "Hindi 'yan score ng gobyerno, 'yan ay score ng bayan," he clarified. According to him, there were a lot of meetings among healthcare workers during the Modified Enhanced Community  Quarantine; and hopefully, these will be properly implemented by government agencies now that Metro Manila and a number of provinces are shifting back to General Community Quarantine.

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