Gov’t officials crowd out patients for COVID-19 testing
MANILA, Philippines — At least 34 government officials, mostly without symptoms or aggravating conditions, have demanded that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) of the Department of Health (DOH) prioritize their diagnostic tests for COVID-19, including that of their asymptomatic family members, while persons under investigation (PUIs) displaying real symptoms waited to be tested for the disease.
Two RITM staffers said that was what happened to the 34-year-old adult cardiology fellow Israel Bactol, whose COVID-19 test results were delayed by four days because government officials “ordered” the results of their respective tests to be ready within 24 hours. Bactol died on March 21.
One of the staffers said that the government officials “sent their [swab] samples to RITM with instructions to prioritize them despite standing DOH guidelines stating that one should not be tested if he or she is asymptomatic.
“The opportunity to test more PUIs is wasted. It’s okay if only one official will be tested, but they include all family members,” the staffer said, noting that the problem of unnecessary testing is worsened by the limited number of test kits.
During a recent night duty, the RITM employee said VIP tests “were stopped because word had reached ordinary people who complained … But the VIPs’ [swab] samples were still there, side by side with those of actual PUIs.”
A list sent to the Inquirer included the names of Sen. Richard Gordon and family, Philippine National Police chief Archie Gamboa and wife Rozanne, Sen. Pia Cayetano, former first lady Imelda Marcos and Sen. Francis Tolentino.
Tolentino even posted on Facebook on March 17 a picture of himself with a medical worker, saying he tested negative for COVID-19. Tolentino took down the post after getting flak from irate netizens.
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