By RJ Espartinez

Months since the Philippines confirmed its first case of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Health (DOH) just realized that they have a lot on its plate in terms of refining its COVID-19 response, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted Tuesday. 

Vergeire made the admission more than 100 days since the government enforced one of the harshest lockdowns in the world to control the spread of COVID-19. 

“Marami. Maraming, marami. As we have said, itong virus, mga nangyayari, it is evolving. Puwedeng may protocol kami ngayon, bukas, nabago na siya kasi may bagong ebidensiyang lumabas. Marami rin kaming nakitang weaknesses noong ating sistema,” Vergeire shared in a virtual forum. 

“Gusto natin lahat mag-improve in time so that we can have a more appropriate response,” Vergeire aded.

She also stated that data gathering of COVID-19 cases must be shifted through automation. And it’s of vital importance to increase COVID-19 facilities, including laboratories that process COVID-19 test results, she added.

“Unang-una, gusto natin ng improvement ng ating information system. Kailangan ma-automate natin lahat. Kailangan makagamit lahat ng automation, kailangan mas na-a-analyze natin ang data…These are the things we would like to improve on,” Vergeire said.

“It is not saying that we do not have it right now. Meron naman, pero siyempre, as we go along, we would like to make it better,” Vergeire added.

Vergeire said that the DOH is doing its best day and night to fast track the accreditation of laboratories which will be able to process COVID-19 test results.

“Pangalawa, gusto pa rin nating dumami ang facilities natin, kaya ang mga licensing officers natin, RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine), working day and night. ‘Pag sa laboratory, in two weeks’ time, may target kami, kailangan malisensiyahan namin this much,” Vergeire said. 

Meanwhile, due to continuous budgetary discrepancies and sluggish COVID-19 response, the Ombudsman is currently investigating the DOH.

Currently, the Philippines can test 12,000 to 13,000 test samples; the case doubling time is 7 days, while the critical care utilization is at 35%. 

Vergeire also added that there are currently 65,328 dedicated community isolation beds across the country, while contact tracers deployed are at 52,000.