Duplicated names, lack of personnel cause delays in COVID-19 case validation – DOH

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Patients with similar names and not enough disease surveillance workers are among the issues officials face in recording COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health said Friday, amid questions regarding its confirmation process. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — Patients with similar names and not enough disease surveillance workers are among the issues officials face in recording COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health said Friday, amid questions regarding its confirmation process.

The DOH said many records have similar-sounding names, such as “Juan dela Cruz” and “Juan de la Cruz,” which would need verification by disease surveillance officers of the agency's epidemiology bureau from testing centers, hospitals or the patient themselves to avoid possible duplicated cases.

"Ang mga ganitong bahagyang kaibahan sa pangalan, ay hindi lang po paminsan-minsan nangyayari," said Health Spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire in the department's online briefing. "Maraming beses ito nae-encounter ng mga officers na nagsasagwa ng validation kaya tumatagal ang proseso ng pagvalidate."

[Translation: These similarities among names are not rare. Officers who conduct the validations encounter them many times, which is why the validation process takes a while.]

Vergeire said there were instances where the names of patients were doubled in the list because their second or repeat confirmation test was counted as his or her first test. She said that this happens when the agency's case investigation forms do not indicate if the test taken was the patient's first or second.

The department also needs more surveillance personnel in charge of monitoring cases, encoding forms and uploading them to the system, especially as testing capacity continues to increase, she noted.

Vergeire said the department had to explain these issues in response to queries on the gap between its list of positive test results to the official tally of confirmed cases.

As of Friday, the country has 13,597 confirmed COVID-19 cases, but the agency has repeatedly said that more individuals have already tested positive but were not included in the count yet since they were still being validated.

Doubts over the DOH's COVID-19 data reporting had been raised after a group of experts pointed out inconsistencies in its records.

Health Secretary Duque had maintained that the errors only comprised a "nominal percentage," or only less than one percent of the whole data set, which means they do not affect the agency's recommendations for policy changes.