The Department of Health is ready to assist hospitals in ensuring compliance with their order on conducting regular COVID-19 tests for their health workers, an official said Wednesday.
In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire clarified the testing protocols being imposed by the government to ensure the safety of health workers while attending to COVID-19 patients.
Vergeire said the Health Department will seek ways to assist hospitals in ramping up testing after she acknowledged their financial limitations due to the pandemic.
“We are going to check on this and we will try to assist hospitals so they may be able to give that protection to health workers,” Vergeire said.
“But it depends on the resources of hospitals. Some hospitals right now, they are having this number of individuals whom they are testing based on the increase in number of cases. Maybe that’s why they are not able to comply with this department memorandum,” she added.
Vergeire referred to the DOH’s Department Memorandum 2020-0546 which orders all public and private hospitals and health facilities to ensure the availability of testing services for all their healthcare workers exposed to persons classified as suspect, probable, and confirmed COVID-19 cases. Priority must be given to healthcare workers who are suspect cases.
“[This] memorandum states that all hospitals should have all their healthcare workers tested especially those catering to COVID-19 patients every two weeks based on the resources of the hospitals,” she said.
Vergeire added that hospitals can still at least conduct tests once a month or every two months to reduce transmission.
Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines President Jose de Grano told CNN Philippines on Wednesday that budget for testing must still be factored in amid medical facilities’ limited resources. He previously said some private hospitals are already resorting to reducing manpower and resources due to the unpaid claims of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation.
In a recent meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III claimed that the government is making sure health workers undergo testing every two weeks, and that the infected are quarantined immediately. But the group Filipino Nurses United refuted this, saying that some of their members are even forced to go on duty without getting tested.
Healthcare workers are urged to report hospitals which do not provide mandatory testing. They may reach the DOH through their Hotline 1555, or the DOH Complaints Handling Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.