MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday called on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Department of Health (DOH) to release a public report on the P9 billion fund allocated for makeshift hospitals and isolation facilities.
Hontiveros issued the call following reports of hospitals in Metro Manila becoming overwhelmed amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
“The P9 billion, if effectively used, is supposed to go to setting up temporary but humane and fully equipped makeshift hospitals. Filipinos shouldn’t have to watch their loved ones die, sometimes under the heat of the sun, just because hospitals are full,” she said in a statement.
Hontiveros said the P9 billion budget under Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) dedicated for Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) and isolation facilities needs to be flagged as ‘urgent expenditure’ as hospitals are already reaching full capacity for COVID-19 patients.
She also stressed that is imperative for IATF and DOH to quickly reinforce and upgrade their One Hospital Command Center (OHCC), which is a hotline meant to refer patients to hospitals that still have bed capacity, but has been ‘unreachable’ because of the alleged ‘basic set up’ of its system.
“People are running from city to city while experiencing an emergency because the OHCC cannot be reached. The OHCC could have easily harnessed the capabilities of our world-class BPOs. Filipinos answer the phones when the world calls. We don’t deserve these busy signals,” she said.
“With the billions in funding we have available, that is nothing but another lazy copout. Every phone call they do or do not pick up can spell the difference between life and death. We have known for many months that COVID variants, if left uncontained, could overwhelm our hospitals. Why didn’t we prepare for the worst?” she added.
Hontiveros also said that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) can accredit additional TTMFs to reimburse its operating cost.
“It is important to set up makeshift treatment centers where we can. With added support from the government, it is a system that will be easier to replicate in more areas, especially in areas where hospitals can no longer accommodate more patients,” she said.
“Our health workers and our patients need full support. There is no excuse as to why we are holding back from giving them the best that their lives depend on,” she added.
Metro Manila, and four nearby provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna have been placed under enhanced community quarantine until April 11 in a bid to stem the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Various hospitals earlier reported that their bed utilization rate for COVID-19 cases has reached a critical level amid the surge in infections.