Philhealth to shoulder medical expenses of hospitalized COVID-19 patients

Robie de Guzman   •   March 27, 2020   •   1730

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) on Thursday said it will shoulder the medical bills of Filipinos who will get hospitalized due to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Philhealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales said the agency will pay for the medical expenses of COVID-19 patients confined in public and private hospitals, especially health workers who are on the frontline of the fight against the viral disease.

He, however, clarified that COVID-19 patients who are under self-quarantine are not covered by the program since the agency could not compute their medication expenses.

“Mayroon tayong mga naka-quarantine sa bahay, hindi natin masasagot yun dahil unang-una, hindi naman natin alam kung ano yung kanilang ginamit na gamot o yung kanilang ginamit na process,” he said in a televised briefing.

“Yung lang nako-confine yung lang ang masasagot ng Philhealth kasi prescribed yung mga gamot at saka yung ginamit na process sa pasyente,” he added.

Morales said the state health insurance agency has so far released P1.6 billion to hospitals as prepositioned fund in response to COVID-19 pandemic. This amount is part of the P30 billion budget that the agency earlier allocated for the public health crisis.

The government earlier ordered the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes to transfer more than P420 million to Philhealth to be used for its COVID-19 packages.

For more information, Philhealth may be reached through its Action Center at 02-84417442. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

China’s donated vaccines arrive in Phl; sparks hope for end of COVID-19

Maris Federez   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, China-based Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, finally arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Sunday afternoon (February 28).

In a small ceremony, key government officials led by President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed the arrival of 600,000 doses of donated vaccines from Beijing.  

“I convey my sincere gratitude to the Chinese people and the government of China for this gesture of friendship and solidarity,” President Rodrigo Duterte said at the ceremony.

The president reiterated that “vaccines should be treated as a global public good and be made available to all.”

“I’m confident more batches of vaccine will be available with great dispatch until every Filipino will be given the chance to get vaccinated,” he said.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the arrival of Sinovac vaccine — the first COVID-19 vaccine to reach the Philippines — has sparked hope that the pandemic is nearing its end.

“That plane is carrying hope that we can finally return to our lives and light for our very dark journey,” Roque said.

“Masayang masaya po, buong Pilipinas po nagdiriwang, patapos na po ang pandemya, nariyan na ang bakuna,” Roque said.

“Makakabalik na tayo sa ating mga [dating buhay]. Nagsimula na po tayo, tuloy-tuloy na po tayo,” he added.

Health workers in the National Capital Region are expected to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccines by March 1. —/mbmf

UK declines PH offer to deploy more Filipino nurses in exchange for vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The United Kingdom (UK) government has declined the offer of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deploy more nurses to the UK in exchange for vaccines.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said the recruitment of nurses and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are two separate issues.

“We’ve got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses. You know those two strands of conversation I think continue but as I’ve said again we have no plans to link those two issues,” he said during a virtual conference.

DOLE Silvestre Bello III proposed forming an agreement with the UK to lift the deployment cap of healthcare workers, provided the UK would allocate vaccines for them. Bello also made the same proposal with Germany.

DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia clarified the proposal was to make sure the nurses are safe when deployed abroad and not for the country to have additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This was after the proposal drew ire for making nurses look like ‘commodities’ to be exchanged for vaccines.

“What Secretary Bello wants is to ensure that the nurse gets vaccinated if ever the request for an exemption in the cap would be granted by the President,” Francia said.

Nevertheless, Ambassador Pruce said he will meet with Bello in the coming weeks to further discuss the issue. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

Senators want pilot testing of 100 schools for in-person classes

Robie de Guzman   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Several senators are pushing for the conduct of pilot testing of face-to-face classes, citing the need for immediate experience to help fine-tune the reopening of physical classes in schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to pilot the in-person classes to an initial 100 schools instead of the suggested 1,605.

“Kung mayroong UK variant at natatakot doon sa pagkalat, e di bawasan natin ang pilot areas, gawin nating isang daan muna. Ang importante, mayroon tayong pagkukunan ng karanasan ngayon pa lang at hindi iyong pagdating doon sa dulo saka natin gagawin dahil nakaangkla tayo sa isang libo,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan earlier said that they initially chose 1,065 schools, or five schools per division, to participate in the dry run of face-to-face classes.

Malaluan said that this figure is equivalent to only over two percent of the more than 47,000 public schools in the country.

“Baka naman pupuwedeng mayroon kayong alternative just to be able to get a system going and be able to fine-tune. Ang importante napa-pilot at nakikita iyong mga gaps so that when you expand it even to 1,065, you already have the experience of 500 or 300 to work around and to work on the necessary adjustments,” Pangilinan said.

“We need the experience now, we need the lessons drawn now because we don’t have the luxury of time,” he added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairperson of Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, also expressed support for the dry run of in-person classes.

“’’Di naman po ibig sabihin na kinancel yung face-to-face, titigil na rin tayo sa pilot schools. This is a good way for our scientists to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of COVID-19,” he said in a separate statement.

DepEd earlier proposed the pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes in 1,605 schools, citing an internal DepEd survey that clamor is from the learners themselves.

The pilot testing was scheduled in January but it was postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte due to the continuing threat of COVID-19.

DepEd made a fresh bid for the resumption of physical classes in areas classified as low-risk for COVID-19 transmission this month, citing a survey that showed more than 50% of students were in favor of attending face-to-face classes.

It was still rejected by Duterte as he stressed that classes will only resume once the vaccination against COVID-19 starts.

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