June 2 ------ The government has spent P14.1 billion to purchase additional personal protective gear, testing kits, and medical equipment to boost the country’s capacity to contain the coronavirus outbreak. In his 10th weekly report to Congress, President Duterte said the Department of Health (DOH) bought 6,062,019 personal protective equipment (PPE) sets for P12.1 billion. An additional 65,330 PPE sets have also been purchased using savings from its previous procurement.
So far, he said, a total of 1,458,000 PPE sets or 23.79 percent have been delivered. Duterte also said the government bought nine different types of PCR test kits for P1.6 billion. The testing kits are expected to be delivered next month. At least 10 units of automated nucleic acid extraction machines have also been procured through the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) for P400 million. The latest equipment purchases were mentioned by the President in line with government efforts to secure facilities and resources for the health sector and other frontliners.
The President recently took responsibility for the procurement of expensive medical equipment bought by the DOH in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak. Duterte said the government was prepared to spend money for the equipment and supplies and would not compromise the safety of health workers. Duterte, however, has also asked authorities to look into allegations about overpriced medical equipment being sold by a local supplier.
Donations, other supplies
As of May 28, Duterte said 158 of the 225 local and foreign donations of medical equipment and supplies have been delivered. The donations included 3,323,950 surgical masks, 101 ventilators, 307,940 N95 masks, and 222,779 PPEs/medical coveralls. The health department has also distributed 14,460 Cepheid Xpert Xpress for COVID-19 cartridges to 12 GeneXpert laboratories around the country. From May 22 to 27, around 159,100 PPEs bought by the PS-DBM have been distributed to various health facilities. Duterte noted that the Food and Drug Administration recently issued interim guidelines for the importation and manufacture of PPE, ventilators, and respirators to ensure quality.
Health workers, COVID-19 hospitals
Of the 6,807 slots for the hiring of health workers, the President said the DOH has hired 2,753 as of May 27. Around 1,173 will be assigned in Metro Manila. Under the DOH deployment program, 1,245 nurses have been temporarily redeployed from primary care facilities to DOH and local government unit hospitals handling COVID-19 cases. An additional 6,099 nurses were deployed to their respective communities for contact tracing and specimen collection/swabbing.
Duterte said the country’s health system continued to expand its capacity to ensue quality, consistent, and accessible services. As of May 28, he said there are 1,912 COVID-19 hospitals across the country. The country has 13,627 dedicated beds for COVID-19 with an average of 35.33 percent occupancy rate. The country has 3,816 temporary treatment and monitoring facilities for COVID-19 cases with a bed capacity of 52,394. At least 11 mega community quarantine facilities have been established in Metro Manila and other urban centers. Around 129 evacuation centers have been converted into health/quarantine centers.
Testing kits, testing centers
As of May 26, the President said a total of 315,363 tests have been conducted on 289,732 persons. This was higher than the 56,191 tests conducted from May 19. The country has a total of 43 active testing laboratories. At least 81 laboratories are being evaluated for possible accreditation. The FDA has approved 110 applications for polymerase chain reaction test kits and 190 rapid test kits as of May 27.
Clinical trials, contact tracing
Of the 24 hospitals participating in the World Health Organization Solidarity Trials, Duterte said 17 hospitals are recruiting patients to participate in the research. Of the 184 participant-patients, 40 enrolled patients have passed the eligibility criteria and enlisted in the WHO’s global randomization and enrollment center database.
To improve contact tracing efforts, Duterte said the DOH has turned over the collection and reporting of contact tracing status to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), recognizing the available human resources in the department and local government units. The health department, however, will continue to provide technical guidance to the DILG.
He said DOH has retained 134 health workers trained to collect and encode case data and deployed to 61 hospitals, as well as technical point persons to surveillance units in Metro Manila. The DOH will maintain dedicated technical staff to assist Centers for Health Development in strengthening the contact tracing capacity of LGUs, Duterte said.