Sen. Nancy Binay and Sen. Imee Marcos on Monday slammed the Department of Health (DOH) for not buying test kits immediately for suspected COVID-19 carriers after the number of novel coronavirus patients climbed to 10.
According to Dr. Alethea De Guzman, DOH Medical Specialist IV, the DOH currently has 2,000 test kits. The agency is expecting 4,500 more kits from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Maririnig namin sa inyo na you only have 2,000 testing kits out of a 100 million population… You think that is enough? Hanggang ngayon nagre-review pa kayo ng decision tools? Dapat ngayon umaaksyon na,” Sen. Binay said.
“I don’t want to panic, but you’re making me panic kasi yung naririnig namin ngayon is parang hindi ninyo pinaghandaan na magkakaroon tayo ng local transmission,” she added.
The Department of Health has requested “for various needs” amounting to P43 million but has failed to prioritize the procurement of such test kits, said Sen. Imee Marcos, who led the Senate inquiry regarding the economic impact of the COVID-19 in the country.
“Bakit napaka-priority ng kung anek-anek na gagastusin sa P43 million, tapos nanghihingi pa ng P2 billion habang ang sangkatauhan ay hindi matetest kung may sakit o hindi? Tama ba yun,” the senator from Ilocos said.
Insufficient testing kits due to ‘Global Shortage’
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that there is a ‘global shortage’ of COVID-19 test kits.
“Sino bang may ayaw i-test lahat? Kung puwede nga lang, i-test mo ang 100 milyong Pilipino. Pero the reality on the ground is hindi kaya,” he said.
In an interview in February 2020, Duque said that the Philippines asked for approval from WHO for some locally-made sample test kits. Most of it are made at the University of the Philippines-Manila.
These Philippine-produced COVID-19 test kits, if approved for commercial use, would only cost “almost half” the price of its imported counterparts, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
Slow public announcements
Sen. Binay also asked the DOH to hasten its public announcements with regards to the outbreak as the public is already losing its confidence to the concerned agencies.
“Sa mga social media o mga Viber groups, kalat na na may isang eskuwelahan sa BGC na positive yung isang parent… DOH is not announcing kaya parang ang nangyayare ay nauuna pa yung mga Viber groups kaysa sa announcement ng DOH,” she said.
“Bilisan ninyo yung pag announce, pag-disseminate ng information kasi nawawala yung kumpiyasa ng public… Naiintindihan ko yung problema ng DOH between balancing act and privacy of the patient pero dapat nananaig ang ikabubuti ng nakararami,” she added.