Iloilo mayors push for delay of transfer of stranded persons from Manila amid surge of COVID-19 cases
ILOILO CITY –– Mayors of Iloilo have called for the indefinite suspension of the transport of stranded persons from Manila amid a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases involving those coming from outside the province.
The mayors’ appeal came amid the suspension of processing of specimens at the main laboratory in Western Visayas due to a huge backlog in the release of test results.
In a resolution, the provincial chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) asked the National Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to suspend the transport of additional stranded persons, citing the need to improve response measures and capacity.
Local chief executives have been complaining that the influx of stranded persons and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) being transported from Manila are straining the capacity of their isolation facilities and health personnel.
“We want residents of our municipalities home with their families. But we hope they understand that many local government units and their health personnel are overwhelmed. We have to balance this with our capacity to absorb the arrival of stranded persons needing isolation,” Mayor Rosario Mediatrix “Trixie” Fernandez of San Enrique town in Iloilo, president of LMP-Iloilo, told the INQUIRER.
Fernandez said some municipalities have reported cases of local transmission, which also need resources and attention.
“We are just asking for more time. They cannot just dump all the stranded persons from Manila to local government units. This needs to be organized, systematized, and coordinated,” she said.
She said they could not properly take care of arriving stranded persons if their resources and health personnel are already overwhelmed.
Fernandez said the backlog in the release of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results have also prolonged the quarantine of returning stranded persons and OFWs.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Dr. Stephanie Abello, chief pathologist of Western Visayas Medical Center-Sub National Laboratory (WVMC-SNL), said the facility has stopped accepting specimens for RT-PCR test so they could process a backlog of more than 2,500 specimens
”The number of specimens received is beyond the capacity of the laboratory,” she said.
She explained that only one machine is processing the specimens due to the unavailability of test kits compatible with other machines.
Dr. Marlyn Convocar, Department of Health Western Visayas director, said the WVMC-SNL will focus on the backlog while other specimens received from July 14 to 17 are being rerouted to the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.
Another sub-national laboratory, the Teresita Lopez Jalandoni Provincial Hospital in Silay City in Negros Occidental, will focus on specimens coming from the province, including Bacolod City.
Convocar said testing and processing of specimens for returning OFWs would be at the privately-run Qualimed Hospital-Iloilo.
The DOH in Western Visayas reported the 12th COVID-19 fatality in the region involving an 80-year-old man, who died on July 7, or a day after he was tested. The result was released only on Wednesday.
Dr. Jane Juanico, head of the infectious disease section of the DOH in the region, said the turnaround time for test results to be released ranged from three to 10 days, with 20 days at the longest.
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