DOH addresses issue of delayed benefits of healthcare workers

Maris Federez   •   November 30, 2020   •   680

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has reiterated its mission to lead the country in creating a productive, resilient, equitable, and people-centered healthcare system, amid the issue of delayed benefits of healthcare workers.

In its press release dated November 28, the DOH said that it cannot take the welfare of the healthcare workers out of the equation in realizing the goals of a Universal Health Care system, especially in the midst of a national state of public health emergency where they are most needed.

“We are taking the issue of delayed benefits very seriously. When matters like this come to our attention, we conduct thorough investigations and concerned offices are made to answer to the Secretary and develop solutions to improve the delivery of services and expedite processes,” the DOH said.

“As health workers, many of us in the DOH—including members of our Executive Committee—have experienced working on the ground, in our health facilities, which is why we understand the challenges in the frontlines—being overworked, underpaid, demoralized, and in this pandemic, even more vulnerable,” it added.

The health department explained that the Active Hazard Duty Pay (AHDP) and Special Risk Allowances (SRA) under Bayanihan 1 are based on the savings of hospitals and only covered frontliners who reported for duty during the Enhanced Community Quarantine from March 15 to May 16.

“Considering that other hospitals do not have savings, DOH sub-alloted P51.9 million which has been released to 17 DOH-retained hospitals who requested for additional funding,” the DOH added.

The department further said that the AHDP and SRA for Bayanihan 2 were alloted through the Administrative Orders 35 and 36 issued by the Office of the President last November 16.

For this, the DOH and the DBM issued Joint Circulars 1 and 2 on November 25 which provided for the P9.2 billion sub-allotment to DOH-retained hospitals, Centers for Health Development (CHDs), and the Ministry of Health of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao for the period of September to December. This, the DOH said, has already been released this week.

The department appealed to the healthcare workers to inform them of health facilities that have not yet released their benefits and to file a written complaint to the DOH – Complaints Handling Unit at dohpau.chu@gmail.com.

The DOH assured that it is taking the matter very seriously and that it does not only respond to the health welfare of the general public but also to the health workers who are with them in attaining this vision and battling this pandemic. — /mbmf

DOH updates isolation, quarantine times for COVID-19 cases, close contacts

Robie de Guzman   •   January 13, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) has disclosed that the protocols for the isolation and quarantine durations for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and close contacts have been updated amid the rapidly rising number of infections in the country.

During a Zoom presentation published on Wednesday, DOH Spokesperson, Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the isolation period for fully vaccinated persons with mild COVID-19 will now be shortened from 10 days to seven days from onset of symptoms.

For fully vaccinated asymptomatic cases, the isolation period will be seven days from their positive RT-PCR test result.

“Ten days isolation is retained for those that are partially or unvaccinated, and those with moderate symptoms regardless of vaccination status,” Vergeire said.

“Meanwhile, the isolation period has been retained to 21 days for those with severe and critical disease, and those immunocompromised as outlined by the living CTG panel,” she added.

Vergeire said that for fully vaccinated health workers with boosters, their isolation duration can be shortened to five days by hospital infection prevention and control committee and/or provincial health offices upon careful assessment of benefits and risk.

“They shall also be expanded to other sectors with strict industry standards on IPC subject with IATF approval,” she added.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated asymptomatic close contacts, Vergeire said, will be shortened to five days from the previous seven days.

“For the quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts for the general public, policies are to be from seven days, we shortened it to five days for those who are fully vaccinated, and we retained 14 days for partially or unvaccinated individuals,” Vergeire said.

“All individuals should also be reminded to continue monitoring their symptoms, wear their mask, and implement minimum public health standards for 14 days,” she added.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated health workers will be cut short to five days while those with boosters may no longer undergo quarantine period

A note on the slide showing the update quarantine period stated that this is still subject to IATF approval/DOH guidelines.

The DOH said isolation is for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 while quarantine is for those who have been exposed and can possibly develop infection.

Vergeire also said that the testing of asymptomatic close contacts would not be required unless they developed symptoms.

“For healthcare workers that are considered asymptomatic close contacts, for the sake of uniformity, they will follow the five days quarantine similar to the general public, provided, they are fully vaccinated,” she said.

The DOH would also retain that the hospital prevention and control committees could further shorten the healthcare workers’ quarantine with boosters depending on the situations, risks, and benefits, she added.

During the presentation, Vergeire said the update in the DOH guidelines was “deemed necessary” because “the differences in guidelines for quarantine and isolation of travelers, the general public, and specific sectors like healthcare workers had been causing confusion on the ground.”

She also said that amid the continuous rise in the number of cases, most of these remain asymptomatic and mild, which showed the effectiveness of the vaccines against severe COVID-19.

Patients who contracted the Omicron variant also showed milder symptoms that those that caught the Delta variant.

“The prolonged quarantine and isolation duration has been causing strain to our healthcare system and our economy,” Vergeire said.

“Our experts believed that specifically in the Omicron variant the benefits of shortening the quarantine outweighs the risk,” she added.

Vergeire also noted that other countries were also updating their protocols on quarantine and isolation periods.

“While the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is the most aggressive example by bringing down their isolation and quarantine periods to five days, we also see other countries moving down from 14 days to 10 days,” she said.

“The updated policy of the Philippines attempts to find acceptable standards give our current context and allow more flexibility to groups and sectors that can strictly implement infection, prevention, and control procedures,” she added.

Vergeire said the updated policy will be issued in the next few days after it has been presented to and approved by the IATF.

Omicron now dominant COVID-19 variant in PH, Duque says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 11, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – The highly transmissible Omicron variant is now the dominant coronavirus variant in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Based on the latest whole genome sequencing conducted on January 3, Duque said that 6.42 percent or 29 out of the 48 samples tested were found with the Omicron variant while 37.5 percent or 18 were Delta variant.

“So siya na po ‘yung nagdo-dominate na variant whereas before it was the Delta. So 60 percent of all the sequence runs ay Omicron na po,” Duque said in his report during a pre-taped public briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte aired late Monday.

The Department of Health (DOH) last week reported it has detected a total of 43 cases of Omicron variant in the country.

The Philippines on Monday reported 33,169 new COVID-19 infections, a new record daily spike. The latest data has pushed the country’s total caseload to nearly 3 million since the outbreak in 2020.

Duque also reported that the average daily reported cases jumped by 690 percent from January 4 to 10 with an average daily increase of 20,481 cases compared to the 7-day moving average from December 28 to January 3 at 2,593.

“So napakalaki po nang itinaas nito,” he said.

He added that most of the newly reported cases were from the National Capital Region, followed by the Region 4A and Region 3.

This means that three regions were in critical risk classification, while other regions were in high risk. This also meant that the whole Philippines is at critical risk classification for COVID-19.

“Ang Pilipinas nasa 3,663 percent, positive po ‘yan na talagang ang tulin, ang bilis ng kalat ng mga kaso. At ang kanyang average daily attack rate nasa 10.47 per 100,000 (population). Lampas po ito doon sa one to seven which was moderate about four weeks ago. Ngayon, lumampas na po tayo kaya critical na po tayo,” he said.

“Kaya napakamahalaga po na bantayan itong mga lugar na ito at paigtingin ang atin pong tugon gamit ang ating mask, hugas, iwas, ventilation, and vaccination strategy,” he added.

Duque also noted an increase in the utilization rates of hospital, intensive care unit (ICU) and mechanical ventilation nationwide.

He said that as of Monday, January 10, forty percent (40%) of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 cases, while 38 percent for ICU, and 17 percent for mechanical ventilation.

“Karamihan ng mga rehiyon ay nagkaroon ng kani-kanilang pagtaas ng tatlong panukatan at ‘yun na nga… Kaya naman aming pinaaalalahanan ang mga ospital na bigyang prayoridad ang pagtanggap o pag-admit ng atin pong mga moderate, severe, at critical cases at makipag-ugnayan sa atin pong One Hospital Command Center upang mai-refer ang mga mild at asymptomatic na pasyente sa mga Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs),” he said.

“At kung papasa sa requirements ay maaaring sa kani-kanilang mga bahay na po mag-isolate ang mga ito. So napakamalaking bagay po na sundin po ito para madecongest ang ating mga facilities,” he added.

The health chief also noted that compared to previous COVID-19 case surges, there were less severe and critical cases.

“Habang nakikita natin na patuloy na tumataas ang ating mga kaso nationwide, ating nakikita rin po na mas mababa ang ating naitatalang severe at critical cases kung ikukumpara noong ating kasagsagan noong nakaraang September 2022 na kung saan ‘yung Delta variant ang rumaragasa,” he said.

Of the 8,569 total hospital admissions as of January 9, Duque said that 636 or 7 percent were severe, while 271 or 3 percent were critical cases.

“Ang sinasalamin po nito ay ang pagiging epektibo ng atin pong pagbabakuna at pagsunod sa minimum public health standards: ang mask, hugas, iwas,” he said.

Duque said the Philippines has experienced four cases surges already excluding the current one.

“We actually already have four surges ano po. Ito ‘yung March-April; JulyAugust; then we have the April — March-April; and then we have the latest which was August-September,” he said.

He called on local government units to further intensify the implementation of public health protocols and contact tracing, as well as impose granular lockdowns in communities with reported cases clusterings.

Duque also reminded the public to remain vigilant by properly wearing face masks, avoid gathering and activities in crowded places, and get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.

He also stressed the importance of immediately going into isolation when a person experiences the onset of cough, fever, colds and other flu-like symptoms to prevent transmission.

“Kung ikaw ay nakararanas ng sintomas, agad po tayong mag-self-isolate, bigyang alerto ang lahat po ng inyong barangay health emergency response teams sa inyo pong komunidad, at magpasuri o magpa-test sa tamang panahon,” he said.

“Muli, nananawagan kami sa lahat na tayo ay magtulung-tulungan at gawin natin ang ating bahagi upang mapigilan ang patuloy na pagtaas ng mga kaso at muling maibaba ito,” he added.

Quarantine period ng fully-vaccinated health workers, paiikliin sa limang araw – DOH

Robie de Guzman   •   January 7, 2022

MANILA, Philippines – Papayagan na ng pamahalaan ang rekomendasyon na paikliin ang isolation at quarantine period ng fully vaccinated healthcare workers na magpopositibo sa COVID-19.

Ayon kay Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, mula sa sampung araw ay gagawin na lamang limang araw ang isolation at quarantine period ng mga healthcare workers.

“Makikitang mas maikli ito kaysa sa protocol sa general public kaya’t kailangang pag- aralan at suriin po itong mabuti ng mga infection prevention and contol committees ng ating ospital, depende sa pangangailangan ng ating mga ospital and weighing the risk and benefits,” ani Vergeire.

Ang hakbang kasunod ng pagdami ng bilang ng medical professionals na nahahawa ng COVID-19 bunsod ng pagtaas ng mga pasyenteng nagpapasuri sa mga ospital.

Kahit mild lang ang sintomas ay obligado pa ring mag-isolate ang healthcare workers kapag nag-positibo sila sa coronavirus disease.

Sasailalim din sa quarantine ang mga nagkaroon ng exposure sa suspect o probable case ng COVID-19.

Ang close contacts ng healthcare workers ay hindi naman kailangang mag-quarantine. (mula sa ulat ni Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

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