Go pushes measures to fill gaps in pandemic response, boost preparedness
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Christopher Go is pushing for measures to fill the gaps in the country’s healthcare system so that it could improve its response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and to other possible health emergencies in the future.
Last Thursday, May 6, in a speech before the Committee on Health, which he chairs, Go acknowledge the need to expand the capacity of the healthcare system to address the still high number of COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces — or the so-called National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble.
“In this pandemic, our problem is the shortage in hospitals bed, particularly intensive care unit beds. We also need to build temporary facilities and modular hospitals for COVID-19 cases. But aside from these facilities, equally important is the service of our health care workers,” Go said in his speech, speaking partly in Filipino.
“But the reality is our health personnel are strained by the surge of COVID-19 cases which hinders our capacity to combat the disease immediately and effectively. As hospitals in the NCR Plus areas are overburdened, its medical frontliners are [also] exhausted because of the number of patients,” he continued.
Go also expressed his gratitude to the medical frontliners and volunteers for their service to the nation.
He especially praised the many Visayan medical frontliners who volunteered to be deployed to Metro Manila to augment the region’s medical personnel and support the local pandemic response.
“Some health workers in the Visayas expressed willingness to be deployed to NCR Plus areas. I am very thankful to them. They are one of the reasons for making us believe that the spirit of bayanihan continues to live within the hearts of Filipinos,” Go said.
“There’s no measure for the sacrifices you made so that we could get past this pandemic. The entire nation owes you a debt of gratitude that cannot be repaid,” he added.
Medical Reserve Corp, Center for Disease Control
Among the bills that Go is pushing for is Senate Bill No. 1451, which he filled in April 2020. It seeks to establish a Medical Reserve Corps composed of individuals who have degrees in health-related fields but have yet to obtain professional licenses.
“Even [President Rodrigo Duterte], in his recent State of the Nation Address, has acknowledged the need for this measure. We need a Medical Reserve Corps that may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government and the local government units in their functions related to addressing the medical needs of the public in times of national emergencies,” he explained.
“The establishment of the Medical Reserve Corps will uphold the role of health workers in nation-building and promote in them patriotism and nationalism,” Go said.
Last Tuesday, May 4, Go also filed Senate Bill No. 2158, which seeks to establish a Center for Disease Control and Prevention to serve as the principal agency tasked with controlling the spread of infectious diseases and developing and implementing communicable disease control and prevention initiatives.
“In other countries, Centers for Disease Control have been instrumental in this pandemic. As experts in the field of infectious diseases, they are at the forefront of the health battle against COVID-19. It is high time for us to strengthen our health units and have our own CDC. President Duterte also acknowledges this and has urged Congress to pass this important measure,” Go said.
Other healthcare measures
He stressed the need for a comprehensive approach and multi-disciplinary preparedness plans to prevent or contain the emergence of pandemic and epidemic diseases.
By reorganizing and strengthening the country’s health units committed to preventing and controlling communicable diseases, Go expressed confidence that the government will be better prepared to deal with any public health emergency in the future.
“Let me reiterate, this is a learning experience for all of us. But then as we move forward, we need better foresight to successfully re-assess what institutional practices we need to change, institutions we need to further strengthen, and make long-lasting plans not only for our recovery but also for our sustainable future,” he appealed.
Several other measures seeking to strengthen the country’s pandemic response were also discussed during the hearing. Among these were Senate Bills Nos. 1527 and 1592, both of which also seek to create a Medical Reserve Corps. The bills were authored by Sens. Pia Cayetano and Imee Marcos, respectively.
Senate Bills Nos. 1450 and 1440, authored by Sens. Grace Poe and Richard Gordon, respectively, also provide for the establishment of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, Senate Bills Nos. 1443, 1444, 1922, and 1801 seek to establish an inter-agency council or task force to respond to public health emergencies. The measures were authored by Sens. Cayetano, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Nancy Binay, and Risa Hontiveros.