Some senators hit DOH after experts flag ‘alarming errors’ in COVID-19 patient data
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Wednesday criticized the Department of Health (DOH) after a team of experts flagged “alarming errors” in the agency’s data on COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) patients, with one lawmaker saying that “garbage data” could lead the government to make “garbage decisions.”
Earlier, the UP Resilience Institute said they have spotted errors in the DOH’s official data from April 24 to April 25. They said these supposed discrepancies ranged from changes in the patients’ gender to patients recorded as dead but are actually alive.
“Garbage in, garbage out. If DOH is feeding garbage data to decision-makers, expect garbage decisions from government. Accurate data and information are fundamental in governance” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said in a statement.
Gatchalian said the DOH should use the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants the President additional powers to address the pandemic, to employ the best technology as well as the talent to automate data collection, data processing, and data analysis.
“Manual data collection will definitely lead to errors, and errors may lead to loss of lives in a pandemic,” the senator said.
Senate Minority Leader Drilon, likewise, underscored the importance of accurate data on how the government responds to the current health crisis.
“In South Korea and Taiwan, the success of the government campaign is premised on the accuracy of the data upon which decisions are based, and the credibility of the implementors,” he said in a message to reporters.
“Questions on the accuracy of the DOH data, and violations of the rules and abuses by law enforcers, erode the confidence of the people in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) and its ability to contain the pandemic. It will be more difficult for the people to follow IATF rules,” he added.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson said this is not the first time that leaders of the DOH are “being challenged to prove itself or leave their posts if they cannot be up to their job.”
He added that whether or not these supposed errors were committed inadvertently, “it is reason enough to make people responsible and accountable.”
“Data accuracy is key to correct and sound decision-making. This is an age-old tenet in management which not only logical but simple enough…What is abominable is if such an act is committed deliberately in pursuit of some selfish reasons or interests,” Lacson said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic involves people’s lives and to a large extent their livelihood. That said, there is no room for officials who, because of sheer incompetence or corrupt thinking will endanger our lives that we practically entrust to them,” he added.
Senator Leila de Lima, meanwhile, claimed that there are also discrepancies between the number of COVID-19 positive patients and the number of tests conducted.
She cited a May 10 report of the DOH wherein the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, which was announced to the public, was lower than the number of individuals who tested positive in tests conducted in laboratories.
De Lima said that while the DOH announced over 10,000 COVID-19 cases on May 10, a situation report released by the department on the same day stated that there were 14,504 individuals who tested positive for the virus.
“Paano natin mahihikayat ang kooperasyon ng ating mga kababayan kung mahirap sundan at paniwalaan ang datos na nanggagaling mismo sa ating gobyerno?” she said.
“The figures don’t add up. It is as if there is an attempt to blow up the number of persons tested while keeping the official tally of COVID-19 cases low,” the senator claimed.
DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire had earlier clarified that the number of individuals found infected with the coronavirus disease may be higher than the number of reported confirmed cases as these still undergo case investigation and validation.
De Lima then called on the government to ramp up its efforts to conduct more tests as “(d)oubts on the actual figures of COVID-19 cases further compound the fact that we are hopelessly behind in our testing program.”
“Without a successful testing program, we would not be able to contain the spread of the virus…The slower we move on the testing, the longer we stay under quarantine, and the worse our economy gets,” she said.
“We need to succeed in flattening the curve. We need to step up the testing and we need a leader who can get it done,” she added.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa believes there was no “negligence in data collection, handling, processing, or interpretation.”
“We expect DOH and UP to be experts in their respective fields and they are both working under one (government) so they have to fix it asap,” he said in a message to reporters.
“They have to talk to each other and make the necessary corrections on these errors since they are both (government) instrumentalities,” he added.
To date, the DOH has so far confirmed 11,350 COVID-19 cases in the country.
Of this number, 2,106 have recovered while 751 have died.
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