House panel chair: Did anyone get sick, die from ‘expired’ face shields?
MANILA, Philippines — The chairperson of a House panel probing the government’s procurement of pandemic supplies last year on Monday sought answers on whether people could get sick or die due to “expired” face shields.
During the hearing of the House committee on good government and public accountability, Diwa Partylist Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay asked Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Carol Taiño if the allegedly expired face shields purportedly delivered by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp have caused harm to health workers who used it.
Aglipay’s query came after Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel clarified with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III if face shields have an expiry date.
To which the health chief explained that DOH uses a shelf-life of 36 months for face shields because the polystyrene material used as a guard between the user’s face and the shield can degrade after that period.
“May I know from DOH, meron bang expiry date ang face shields considering this is not a perishable commodity? Unlike ng pagkain, even canned goods, alam po natin may expiration ‘yan, because napapanis po ‘yan,” Pimentel asked.
(May I know from DOH, does the face shield have an expiry date considering that this is not a perishable commodity? Unlike food products, even canned goods, we know that it has an expiry date because it can be spoiled.)
“The DOH has established a shelf life for medical-grade face shields. The shelf life is 36 months, according to our disease prevention and control bureau […] there is a component of the face shield, that has styropor […] ‘yong styropor niya (its styropor), that apparently is what is subject to the shelf-life because pwedeng maging pulbos (it can turn into powder),” Duque replied.
Pimentel further asked if there were expiry dates placed on the face shields provided by Pharmally. Duque said the DOH was looking into the issue.
“Wala naman ho yata (I think there was none) but I’m still having that investigated because of the revelations of the officer of Pharmally. So we’re checking on this,” he said.
Aglipay then asked Taiño if someone got sick or had died due to the face shield distributed by the DOH to frontliners.
According to Taiño, they have not received any such report or complaint.
“May nagkasakit po ba at may namatay dahil sa face shield na binigay ng DOH sa frontliner? […] Ma’am please answer the question, yes or no lang, may namatay ba at nagkasakit sa face shield na inissue ng DOH?” Aglipay asked.
(Did anyone get sick and die due to the face shields provided by DOH to frontliners? Ma’am, please answer the question with a yes or no only, has anyone died and got sick because of the face shields issued by DOH.)
“Wala, malaking tulong po itong face shield na ito sa mga frontliners natin […] Wala naman po sa pagkaka-alam namin,” Taiño replied.
(None, the face shields were a big help to our frontliners. We are not aware of any incident, as far as we know.)
Aglipay also insisted whether it was true that the expiry was 36 months, and not six months as the Senate supposedly insisted.
“Tama ho ba 36 months, hindi six months? Sabi kasi ng Senado six months lang eh,” the House panel chair said.
(Is it correct, the expiry is after 36 months, not six months? The Senate says it’s just six months.)
“Hindi ho 36 months ho, on record po ito, we will also submit the shelf-life requirement for a face shield, Mr. Chairman,” Duque noted.
(It’s not 36 months, this is on record, and we will also submit the shelf-life requirement for a face shield, Mr. Chairman.)
Aglipay’s questions came after Pharmally officer Krizle Grace Mago admitted during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last Friday that they changed the expiry dates of face shields delivered to the government to later dates.
To this, Senator Francis Pangilinan raised concerns on whether those face shields were even safe to use, saying that nurses and doctors may have contracted COVID-19 due to the substandard protective equipment provided by Pharmally.
Pharmally is at the center of investigations being done by both chambers of Congress which stemmed from a Commission on Audit (COA) report which showed P67.32 billion worth of deficiencies in the DOH’s COVID-19 funds in 2020.
Part of the P67.32 billion was the P42 billion funds that the DOH transferred to procurement agencies like Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management, which awarded the P8.7 billion supplies contract to Pharmally despite the firm’s small paid-up capital of P625,000.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.