Duterte to meet with Cabinet officials over health workers’ concerns amid pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2)— President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet with key Cabinet officials on Sunday to discuss the various issues and concerns raised by members of the medical community while the country continues to battle the COVID-19 crisis.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed this meeting on social media, saying he will “make the proper announcement in due course.”

On Saturday, health workers and frontliners from several medical organizations appealed for the chief executive to place Mega Manila back to a stricter enhanced community quarantine until August 15, citing an overwhelmed healthcare system and “burned out” frontliners.

Mega Manila is composed of Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, and Mimaropa.

The move will also pave the way for healthcare workers to “refine” pandemic control strategies, the group added.

Currently, the capital region and environs remain under the more relaxed general community quarantine, with local government units advised to impose granular lockdowns on areas with high number of infections.

Health workers’ wish list

In its previous conversation with the government’s task force officials, the medical community raised six major concerns, and backed these up with recommendations to further improve the country’s health system and COVID-19 response.

The issues raised include the following: hospital workforce deficiency, failure in contact tracing as well as easy detection and isolation of COVID-19 cases, transportation and workplace safety of health workers, and the public’s compliance with self-protection (following health protocols).

Kaya “time-out”… para mapag-usapan ang mga dapat at i-evaluate ano ‘yung mga kulang, kakulangan nung nakaraang limang buwan,” Philippine Medical Association Vice President Dr. Benito Atienza said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Weekend.

[Translation: That’s why we wanted a time-out.. to discuss and evaluate what else is lacking in our response for the past five months.]

Atienza also acknowledged the need for the country to balance its focus on the economic and health sectors, but stressed the latter should be given priority especially now that health workers are also getting infected with the virus.

DOH to advocate community’s plea

The Health Department meanwhile welcomed the points raised by the medical sector, saying it would also “support the call” for tighter lockdown implementation.

In a statement, the agency vowed to advocate the frontliners’ plea for a timeout, and promised to revisit its strategy in addressing the pandemic.

“We support the call of our frontliners to ensure a science-based approach and stricter implementation of community quarantine measures. We also understand the constraints of our local government units and will be working with them constantly to achieve results that are beneficial to all,” DOH said.

LGUs to heed?

Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla personally supported the proposal of the medical community, saying the country can always regain the economy— but not the lives of possible casualties of the mysterious virus.

“I would have closed down Cavite 1 month ago but I was asked not to by senior members of the administration. If the choice is between health or the economy, I choose health. We can always regain the economy but we cannot quantify the loss that so many families are going through,” Remulla wrote on his social media page, adding that health workers have been in a “breaking point.”

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, on the other hand, noted that the local government is looking for ways to address COVID-related issues, and that a citywide lockdown is deemed as a “very last option."

To date, coronavirus infections in the country have breached the 100,000 mark, with the Philippines once again reporting a new record-high in daily COVID-19 cases.