DOH probes claims plasma being sold to virus patients
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philipines — The Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas (Region 7) is looking into claims on social media that some recovered new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients are making money by selling their convalescent plasma to families of critically ill patients.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, the DOH Region 7 spokesperson, warned hospitals against processing convalescent plasma bought from these patients.
“The licensing division will actually look into it (these allegations). We have advised also the blood banks of the hospitals that they should not process these even for their own patients. If we [find] out that they are doing this, their license may be revoked,” she said in an interview.
There have been claims on social media about plasma being sold at P80,000 per bag in Barangay Luz, one of the areas in Cebu City hit hard by the coronavirus infection.
“We really discourage that and we condemn it,” Loreche said. “Blood plasma is supposed to be given voluntarily to those who need it and should not be sold. If we allow that and we purchase blood for our patients, what will happen to those who are in need [of it] and cannot afford it?”
“The plasma shall be made available for everyone—rich or poor,” Loreche said.
Plasma is a yellow component of blood that contains antibodies that are deemed vital for boosting the immune response to bacteria and viruses.
A new website—plasmangpagasa.com — was launched last week to encourage online registration for donations of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. The website’s current partner hospitals are the Philippine General Hospital, the Lung Center of the Philippines and the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig and in Quezon City.
COVID-19 cases in Cebu City remained high despite the city being under enhanced community quarantine—the only locality in the country still under strict lockdown.
Data from the DOH in Central Visayas showed that there were 72 cases and 20 deaths reported on Friday.
In a Viber message, Loreche explained that these figures were “cumulative numbers,” adding that reporting of deaths needed more time and was dependent on how soon information is transmitted among other factors.
On Saturday, the DOH reported the biggest single-day increase in the number of patients nationwide who have recovered from COVID-19, as recoveries surged past 14,000.
Because of its Oplan Recovery program, the DOH said, it was able to include in its list an additional 807 recovered patients—four times the daily average of recoveries, which pushed the total to 14,037.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier explained that the long recovery period and an inadequate monitoring system were among the reasons why the Philippines had the lowest number of recovered patients in Southeast Asia.
Nearly all of the country’s COVID-19 cases are patients deemed asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. The DOH allows these patients to quarantine at home, provided that they have their own room and bath and are monitored by barangay health workers.
Unfortunately, there were instances when barangay health workers could not fully monitor patients quarantining at home, Vergeire said.
This was why, she said, the DOH introduced the Oplan Recovery program to verify the status of patients whose health outcomes were still unreported.
1,382 new cases
Latest DOH data show there are at least 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 patients under home quarantine—nearly a third of them in the Cordillera Administrative Region.
The DOH said the public should “expect more recoveries in the coming days” as the agency improved its validation process.
To date, there are 54,222 confirmed cases nationwide, with the addition of 1,387 new cases. The DOH removed 79 cases from its case count as these were found to be duplicates.
Of the new cases, 918 are patients who tested positive within the last three days. Metro Manila accounted for the most number of these cases at 261, followed by 62 cases in Central Visayas.
The remainder of the new cases, or 469, are patients who tested positive four days ago or earlier. Metro Manila still topped that list with 178, while Central Visayas had 15.
The death toll rose to 1,372 as 12 more patients succumbed to COVID-19. Of the newly reported deaths, only two died this month. Nine died in April and one in May.
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