Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday supported an appeal of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) that nurses who would be considered patients under investigation (PUIs) be prioritized for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) testing.
“Nurses and other health workers should be tested because we need them most in this fight. We must take care of them so that they can care for patients,” said Go, chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography.
Go said that since they are exposed to patients almost daily, nurses are more likely to be infected even though they are careful. He said it is necessary to know right away whether they are negative or positive to avoid unnecessary quarantine.
“We need as many healthy nurses as we can get right now,” he added.
In an interview with DZBB on Monday, PNA national president Rosie de Leon appealed that nurses who will be considered PUIs be given priority in the Covid-19 test.
“‘Yung isa po naming chief assistance nurse, nakapila po. ‘Yun po ang pakiusap namin, lahat po ng PUI nurses be given priority kasi mahirap po ‘yun eh. Kung sila po ay naka-self-quarantine, pagkatapos po hindi naman natin ma-test kung talagang sila ay positive or not, made-deplete po ‘yung ating number ng health care workers (Our chief assistance nurse is in line. That’s our appeal, all our PUI nurses be given priority because that’s difficult. If they are on self-quarantine, then they are not tested whether positive or not, the number of our health care workers will be depleted),” De Leon explained.
Go reiterated his call for the Department of Health (DOH) to capacitate more laboratories to perform Covid-19 tests and for the Food and Drug Administration to hasten the process of approving applications of testing kits.
“Mas mabuti kapag maraming maisagawang test para ma-identify natin ang mga lugar na kailangang i-monitor nang mas maigi at ang mga taong kailangang gamutin. Dapat mabilisang ma-isolate natin ang may Covid-19 para hindi na ito kumalat (It is better if more tests will be done so that we can identify areas that need strict monitoring and people that need to be cured. We have to immediately isolate those who are infected with Covid-19 to prevent the spread),” the Senator said.
The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City currently conducts tests for Covid-19 while it certified five other hospitals that “can perform independent testing” by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
The five hospitals include the National Institutes of Health Molecular Laboratory of the University of the Philippines and the four DOH subnational laboratories namely: the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City, and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
On Monday, the FDA approved PCR-based test kits that can detect the virus that causes Covid-19, bringing the total number of approved PCR-based test kits to 18.
The FDA also approved the use of five rapid test kits, which measure the antibodies from a patient’s blood samples. It has already streamlined the process for approving Covid-19 test kit applications that the agency continues to receive.
Go emphasized the need for PUI nurses to be tested for Covid-19, but he said the right process should still be observed.
“There’s an algorithm that determines who gets tested first. Sundin pa rin natin. Pero dahil dumadami naman ang (Still, it has to be followed. But now that we have more) available test kits, let us give due consideration to the nurses who are PUIs given their critical role in defeating this virus,” Go said.
Earlier, Go requested the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to provide proper compensation for volunteer health workers and equip them with personal protective equipment and other necessary items.
Aside from compensating volunteer health workers, Go said DOH must expedite the procurement of test kits, ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other necessary tools to equip hospitals.