Drop plan to hire more contract tracers, Sotto tells DOH
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) should drop its plan of employing thousands of contact tracers and instead focus providing funds for treating coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Monday.
In a statement, Sotto urged the DOH to use the P11.7 billion budget it sought for hiring of over 130,000 contact tracers for the treatment of individuals who contracted the disease, specially the poor.
“It will be wiser and more practical to divert the P11.7 billion for the treatment of patients. We need funds to treat our sick kababayans. Mas mahalagang gamitin na lang ang pondong ito para sa pagbili ng mga gamot at medical equipment na makakatulong sa paggaling ng mga pasyente,” he said.
(“It will be wiser and more practical to divert the P11.7 billion for the treatment of patients. We need funds to treat our sick fellow Filipinos. It would be more important to use this fund to buy medicine and medical equipment that would help treat patients).
“What I am suggesting is for the DOH to be more prudent on how the country’s funds are being used. But of course, the decision is still with the President,” he added.
Sotto issued the call as he raised concerns over spending multi-billion pesos worth of funding on an endeavor that might only lead to waste, noting that it may be spent on people who are not even trained for the job.
“You cannot just deploy anyone to do the job. Contact tracing can only be effective if you use people who are trained in investigation like how they handled it in Baguio. If the DOH hires people who have no experience in investigation, then the program is practically useless,” the Senate president said.
Sotto said that the people the DOH will hire might just ask black-and-white questions and get answers that will not yield the needed information to help the government track down people who might have contaminated the virus.
He further pointed out that “neophyte” contract tracers would still need to undergo training for contact tracing, which he said would only delay the process.
What the DOH can do, however, is to coordinate their contact tracing efforts with other government agencies which have the experience and manpower to go around the country, he added.
“The DOH does not need to hire new people to do contact tracing. It can coordinate with other government offices and tap displaced employees to carry out the task at no additional cost to the government,” he said.
In one of the hearings of the Senate committee of the whole hearing on the government’s COVID-19 response, DOH Secretary Francsico Duque III told senators that P11.7 billion would be needed to fund contact tracing efforts against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Duque said the department plans to hire over 130,000 contact tracers for three months to cover a 1:800 ratio in the entire country.
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