Over 80K contact tracers needed for PH expanded contact tracing efforts – DILG

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2020   •   822

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday said it is looking to hire and train a total of 82,537 contact tracers amid government efforts to expand its contact tracing capabilities.

In a statement, the DILG said they will form part of the contact tracing teams of local government units nationwide to boost the government’s efforts to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Given that the there is still no vaccine or cure to COVID-19, the government needs to train and hire contact tracers who will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 by identifying those who may have been exposed to the virus and monitoring them daily for 14 days,” DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said.

Año said a proposal has already been submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) for the hiring and training of contact tracers.

Under the DILG proposal, the following are the qualifications of contact tracers:

  • Preferably graduates of Bachelor’s Degree on Allied Medical Courses, other health-related courses, or Criminology
  • Second priority maybe given to those applicants who have completed at least two years of college education in medical or criminology-related courses
  • Applicants shall preferably have one-year relevant experience and four hours relevant training

Año said that, at present, there are 52,463 contact tracers nationwide who are part of 3,347 local contact tracing teams.

“Per WHO (World Health Organization), the ideal contact tracer to population ratio is 1:800 so to fully cover 108-million Filipinos, we actually need a total of 135,000 contact tracers,” he said.

However, the DILG chief noted that while there is a need to hire 80,000 contact tracers, they only proposed to hire 50,000 since LGUs continue to increase the number of their contact tracers and there are also volunteers from the private sector.

Año said that the DILG expects the approval of its proposal soon and expects to start hiring the additional contact tracers by next month.

Gov’t offices under lockdown reach 153; over 10K gov’t workers, COVID-19 positive

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 6, 2020

Government offices that have been put under lockdown now reached 153, while over 10,000 government employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Among the offices include the Government Service Insurance System office in Pasay City and Quezon City which will remain closed until Friday (August 7). However, the GSIS advisory states that its online facilities will still remain open for members and pensioners.

The main office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in Intramuros, Manila will remain closed until August 16 for extensive disinfection and decontamination.

GOVERNMENT OFFICES UNDER LOCKDOWN

NCR – 108
Region IV – 16
Region VII – 11
Region I – 5
Region V – 4
CARAGA – 3
Region IX – 2
CAR – 1
Region II – 1
Region XI – 1
Region XII – 1

TOTAL: 153

Civil Service Commission (CSC) Commissioner Atty. Aileen Lizada advised that the head of department or agency should have a concrete internal protocol to prevent the further spread of the virus. This includes swab testing, disinfection, and other health protocols.

So we need to see, dapat meron kayong ganoong internal protocol para ho na everyone is guided accordingly (So you should have internal protocols so that everyone is guided accordingly),” she said.

Meanwhile, a total of 10,344 government employees tested positive for COVID-19 as of August 5.

Lizada said employees will have free medical services if they wish to be treated in government facilities and hospitals.

She also calls on head of the agencies to continue providing salaries to Job Orders.

“Although there is no employer-employee relationship, I personally believe that the head the agencies must continue paying the salaries of JOs and COS. They were forced to not work because of this virus,” she said. -AAC (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

PSA: Philippine economy suffers -16% drop in GDP in Q2

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s economy has suffered a big blow since the beginning of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The extension of strict community quarantine further burdened the economy that government officials believe the Philippines is now in an economic recession. 

According to the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country’s recorded gross domestic product (GDP) plummeted from -0.7% in the first quarter to -16.5% in the second quarter specifically from April to June this year.

This is the lowest ever recorded since the year 1981. 

The country’s economy had been very strong in the past two decades until this year’s COVID-19 health crisis that caused world trade and investments to suffer heavily.MNP (with inputs from Rosalie Coz)

Lawmakers question PhilHealth’s claim that fund may not be enough for next year

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) claims that the agency’s actuarial life or fund will last only until next year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

PhilHealth’s senior vice president for actuary, Nerissa Santiago said the pandemic has delayed members from remitting their contributions. The agency has also been shelling out more funds due to the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients.

PhilHealth estimates that around 209,000 patients will be needing financial support from the agency this year.

This could lead to further depletion of PhilHealth funds by the start of next year. 

But Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo questioned this saying PhilHealth should still have P112-billion and that support for COVID-19 patients shouldn’t reach that much amount.

Quimbo noted that based on global measures, only about 20 percent of COVID-19 patients are expected to be admitted to hospitals and this will not cost PhilHealth an amount of P45 billion.

“I use the global distribution for mild, severe and moderate, and computation ko lang po dyan maximum na is maximum P3.2 billion only. Hindi po talaga aabot iyan ng P45 billion,” Quimbo said.

“Ang worry ko po is, sa kaka-project ninyo ng napakalaki ay nagkakaroon ng mas malaki leeway sa fraud,” she added noting that there is a problem with the implementation of the agency’s case rate program.

She added that PhilHealth’s actuarial life should still be enough for up to 10 years according to the Department of Health (DOH) projection in August last year.

If your case rate is properly computed, wala po tayong problema ng overpayment nor underpayment,” Quimbo said.

PhilHealth President R/Gen. Ricardo Morales claims that PhilHealth’s fraud rate is at 7.5 percent and to address this he said upgrading the agency’s IT system would be key to reducing it.

Other lawmakers also questioned alleged irregularities in the agency’s case rate system.

PhilHealth started its case rate system in 2011 which provides health care institutions a corresponding amount for every illness like pneumonia, gastroenteritis, urinary tract infection (UTI), and now COVID-19.

Since the start of COVID-19, PhilHealth has allocated a 30 billion-peso-fund for the interim reimbursement mechanism.

Out of the said amount, the agency has already released about P14-B but only about P1-B has been liquidated. 

The agency has since been working on case rates like P15,000 for pneumonia; P6,600 for gastroenteritis; P7,000 for urinary tract infection (UTI).

For COVID-19 cases, PhilHealth has set P44,000 insurance for mild cases and up to P788,000 for critical cases.

Lawmakers asked PhilHealth officials why they have to pay for cases worth less than the amount of a particular case rate.

“Ano po ibig sabihin nito? Nagpunta ka ng ospital at ikaw po ay binigyan ng kaukulang atensyong medikal. Ang ginastos mo ay P20,000, ang babayaran pa rin ng PhilHealth sa ospital ay P43,000 under the case rate system?” asked the House Committee on Public Affairs Chair Mike Defensor.

“So tinuturing niyo na kita na ito ng ospital, kumbaga ay reward, dahil mas mura ang ginastos nila kesa doon sa case rate na ini-assign ng PhilHealth? Ganoon po ba iyon?” asked Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

Morales explained that what hospitals get from the agency is an incentive to make their services more efficient.

Magiging incentive na doon sa mga ospital nang maging efficient sila,” he said.

Morales added that the case rate will be transitioned to a global budget wherein funds will be entrusted to local government units as part of the Universal Health Care Law.

The Lower House will continue the hearing on the alleged irregularities in PhilHealth next week. MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo) 

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