Civil society groups called on the Philippine government to change its approach in responding to the coronavirus pandemic by letting medical professionals take the lead.
They said the country will only continue to “lose the battle” against the disease if the government will go on using a “military approach” instead of a “medical solution” to the health crisis.
Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said the government should stop its “ineffective military responses” that spend billions of money on what he described as “failed priorities.”
On Aug. 1, the country’s medical societies appealed for a two-week time out to address “healthcare workforce deficiency, failure of case finding and isolation, failure of contact tracing and quarantine, transportation safety, and workplace safety public compliance.”
Bishop Alminaza said the appeal from the medical health workers were “for real.”
“They want to heal our land, they want us to be free from the virus, and more importantly, they want us to take ‘time out’ of our fears of the COVID-19,” he said.
“It is counter-revolutionary for our government, to not heed their call, and still resort to their shadowed hard-headedness at the expense of our health safety and of the plight of our frontliners,” added the bishop.
He said it is also “counter-productive” to recruit doctors and nurses “in a military way” without an assurance of just compensation and humanitarian assistance.
Bishop Alminaza said it is “counter-Filipino” not to listen and respond to the “cries” of the medical frontliners.
“As a pastor of the people of God, I am one with our medical health workers in their call and commend their continuing heroic service to the Filipino people,” he said.
Let doctors lead
Doctor Gene Nisperos, professor at the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine, said the call of the health professionals was a “reminder” to the government “to revisit and review” its plan.
“[The government] wants us to follow the guidelines, but there was no plan that was presented to the public,” he said. “Where are we now?” added the doctor.
He said the government should not let people who do not understand the pandemic take the lead in responding to the health crisis.
“If you are in the medical field, your priority is to save lives, unlike what is happening now that our response is very punitive,” said Doctor Nisperos.
He said that the government seemed to have already gotten used to the “metaphor of war” by allowing “a military or police mindset to spearhead the COVID-19 response.”
He said warned that the strategy will only lead to the “persecution of the sick.”
On Aug. 3, Second Opinion PH, a group of health workers and professional, called for the “immediate removal” of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and the military in the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease.
The health workers called on the government to replace the military with “team players” from health and related fields who can undertake a unified plan of action under a centralized leadership.
In its statement, the group said that if they are to implement a quarantine, “it must be a ‘medical quarantine,’ with healthcare workers in the lead and with clear health goals and outcomes.”
“To truly benefit our overburdened healthcare workers, a new framework and new leadership direction than the ones we currently have are imperative,” the statement read.
The group also called for “active and aggressive recruitment of additional health workers,” urging the government to offer them more support and protection.
The group blamed the “wrong priorities” taken by the government for the death of several healthcare workers.
Duterte approved the implementation of a 14-day “modified enhanced community quarantine” in the capital and in nearby provinces from Aug. 4 to 18.