REP. JOCELYN P. TULFO
Member, Committee on Social Services
https://www.facebook.com/jocelyntulfoinaction/ | 09177292437
LARGE-SCALE COVID-19 TESTING CAN BE DONE SYSTEMATICALLY
Kapag gusto may paraan, ‘pag ayaw may dahilan. Iyan ang Pilipinong kasabihan na akma sa sitwasyon at issue ng large-scale testing para sa COVID-19.
Sa pahayag na ito, aking inilalahad ang isang balangkas ng mga paraan upang maaaring maisagawa ang COVID-19 testing sa buong bansa.
The IATF shall prioritize the cities and towns for testing through risk level assessment. High-risk areas shall go first while low-risk areas shall be last. The IATF shall approve the needed testing schedule.
WHAT TEST TO USE
Large-scale workplace-oriented testing is the most affordable RT-PCR testing kit with the fastest results release time. The RT-PCR testing kits and its administration must be acquired through public bidding under emergency procurement rules considering the size of the bid. The entire bidding process should take one to two months at most. Longer would be too slow. If the winning bidder somehow fails to meet performance standards, the second winning bidder shall continue the awarded project based on the winning bid conditions.
Resorting to using rapid antibody tests together with RT-PCR confirmatory testing would be much more expensive and time-consuming, although it does offer the advantage of faster triage and isolation.
It is crucial that by the time large-scale testing starts, sufficient testing center capacity must be in place to handle the deluge of testing kits.
Persons waiting for their test results should be either under home quarantine or in community isolation facilities.
WHO MUST BE TESTED
Workplace-oriented testing to cover all national and local government offices, government-owned or controlled corporations, private corporations, networked enterprises, and franchisees.
First priority among government employees are health care frontliners, law enforcers, private security personnel, building maintenance personnel, and solid waste management personnel.
But government officials occupying positions with Salary Grade 20 (P52,703/month) and higher shall pay the full cost of the COVID-19 testing using their personal private funds and in private medical facilities. Not a single peso of public funds should be spent on these high government officials’ COVID-19 testing as a matter of delicadeza and giving way to public servants of lower rank and salary grade.
For community-based enterprise COVID-19 testing, the DOH shall identify the barangays to be prioritized for COVID-19 testing. The following people can be prioritized:
· Public market vendors and sidewalk vendors
· Tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers and pedicab drivers.
· Sari-sari store salespersons
· Personnel of small and proprietary businesses such as laundry shops, barbershops, beauty salons, wellness centers, bakeries, neighborhoods groceries, auto detailing shops, tailoring shops, and water refilling stations
For household-level monitoring and testing, the barangay health workers led by assigned city/town doctors and/or volunteer doctors shall conduct home visits and/or require entire families to visit the health center on a scheduled basis. Every member of each household shall undergo medical screening for symptoms using protocols prescribed by the DOH.
WHEN SHALL LARGE-SCALE TESTING BE DONE
Shortly before the testing kits are deployed, the DOLE Bureau of Working Conditions and Occupational Health and Safety should take the lead in scheduling and organizing the COVID-19 testing in coordination with the City/Municipal Health Office and Public Employment Service Office.
The Barangay Chairperson and Barangay Health Centers serving their barangay shall schedule and organize the conduct of community-based testing within their barangays.
During the days of waiting for the test results to be released and results certificate to be issued, the workplaces shall implement strict physical distance, screening, disinfection, decontamination, and other procedures.
The DOH and DOLE should issue a joint order prescribing the Enterprise Continuity Plan components, the details of which the institutional workplaces and community enterprises shall fill-in and adapt to their particular situations.
COST BURDEN OF COVID-19 TESTING
Amortization of the cost burden of COVID-19 testing shall be jointly determined by the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Finance, PhilHealth, Employees Compensation Commission, Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, and Bureau of Local Government Finance.
Spreading out the cost and using cost-sharing are the fiscally-responsible ways to pay for the cost of conducting large-scale COVID-19 testing. The cost of workplace and community enterprise testing can be split into equal shares of the employer, the employee, and PhilHealth. Household-level testing costs can be split into equal shares of the city/municipal government and PhilHealth.
The Department of Finance may resort to foreign grants and/or the issuance of bonds to raise funds for needed for the large-scale COVID-19 testing. Bonds issuance would further spread out the cost burden on a national cash flow scale. (END)