Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged 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 allocated for makeshift hospitals and isolation facilities after hospitals became overwhelmed amid the COVID-19 surge in cases.
“Ubos na ba ang P9 billion kaya nasa provincial hospitals na ang mga taga-Maynila? Sobrang puno na yung mga ospital natin, ginawang emergency room na yung tents. 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.
“Kailangan nating suportahan ang mga ospital sa abot ng ating makakaya. Ang daming mga kababayan natin ang kailangang magpagamot. It is so unjust that they are so close, and yet so far. With all the projections made about the number of cases, dapat matagal ng nag-double time ang mga ahensya. We have to remember, not only COVID patients need to be hospitalized,” she said.
Hontiveros said the P9 billion budget under Bayanihan 2 dedicated for Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) and isolation facilities needs to be flagged as ‘urgent expenditure’ while hospitals overflow.
She added that it was important for the 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 asked.
Hontiveros also said that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) can accredit additional TTMFs so that the operating cost becomes reimbursable.
“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,” Hontiveros concluded.