Hospital administrator urges gov’t to cut red tape in selecting vaccination venues
MANILA, Philippines — One of the country’s oldest private hospitals has asked the government to “cut down on red tape” in selecting and approving medical centers that could administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Samuel Ang, the administrator of Chinese General Hospital in Manila, said hospitals were facing difficulty in going through “too many” government requirements to set up a vaccination site.
He did not say in detail where red tape or excessive bureaucracy comes in, but he told a vaccine summit on Friday that about 2,000 public and private hospitals in the country were willing to administer the vaccines in order to shore up the national inoculation.
“Maybe you cut down the red tape in approving vaccination centers. This is important because the hospitals are more than willing to help the LGUs (local government units),” Ang said during the summit organized by the International Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ICCP) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The national vaccination chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said in the same forum that the task of identifying vaccination centers had been delegated to [local governments], which were given the “autonomy” to select the facilities.
But “you and I know it depends on the LGU,” Ang replied. He said it was easier in more progressive cities like Manila, “but in the provinces, it could be difficult.”
Nonetheless, Galvez offered to look into “shortening” or easing the requirements. “We will abide by your suggestion,” he said in reply to Ang and ICCP founding chair Francis Chua, who sought Galvez’s help in getting 500,000 doses of Sinovac inoculated to the Chinese-Filipino community in June.
In a separate interview on Sunday, the president of Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. said “there should be no problem or red tape (for a hospital to become a vaccination site) if there is good coordination between them and the LGU.”
A private hospital normally “volunteers” its facility and manpower and the LGU will benefit from it since it is easier to monitor and address vaccine side effects on site, Dr. Jose de Grano said.
But another doctor on the field, who declined to be named for fear of reprisal, said the conflict arises when mayors show “preference” for a particular hospital in their area to carry out the vaccination.
Galvez also thanked major hospitals in Metro Manila for setting up 17 vaccination sites to administer 100,000 shots a month.
As more vaccines are expected to be delivered in the coming months, he said the government was working out to increase national vaccination rate to 500,000 daily. “We really need the (hospitals’ and private sector) participation,” he said.
While waiting for the arrival of new vaccine shipments, a senator urged the Department of Health (DOH) to launch an aggressive information campaign to improve the public’s trust in vaccines.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson warned that the incoming vaccines might go to waste if people would not be willing to be inoculated.
“What our officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, should do is to improve the public’s trust in vaccines, instead of just announcing when the vaccines will arrive,” Lacson said in a radio interview on Sunday.
“Besides, if very few Filipinos are willing to be vaccinated, the vaccines that actually arrive may go to waste,” he said.
In a Pulse Asia survey conducted from Feb. 23 to March 3, 61 percent of the respondents said they do not want to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine. A majority of those who refused to receive the shots said they were “not sure of its safety.”
Over a million Filipinos have already been vaccinated as the government expanded its inoculation to the A4 priority group, which includes workers in other front-line businesses and agencies.
Despite the government’s efforts to procure more vaccines, Lacson said these might just be left to expire if the people refuse to be vaccinated.
The DOH, he said, must be “forward-looking” in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccines.
“We keep on focusing on the number of infections and deaths every day. Should we not be forward-looking? We should convince the public via an information campaign to trust that the vaccines are our only hope against the pandemic for now,” he said.
On Sunday, the DOH reported 8,346 new COVID-19 cases, five weeks since Metro Manila and four nearby provinces went into lockdown, pushing the total to 1,054,983.
Seventy-seven more deaths, nearly half or 32 of whom were previously tagged as recoveries, brought the toll to 17,431.
Based on its time-based recovery protocol, the DOH declared 9,072 mild and asymptomatic cases as recovered after observing a 14-day quarantine. This brought total recoveries to 966,080.
Despite the mass recovery and the additional deaths, the country still has 71,472 active cases: 94.7 percent mild, 1.9 percent asymptomatic, 0.9 percent moderate, 1.4 percent severe and 1.1 percent critical.
The DOH said 16 percent turned out positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, out of 45,395 people tested for the coronavirus disease on Saturday.
Seven laboratories did not submit data to the department.
—WITH REPORTS FROM NESTOR CORRALES AND DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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