Bangsamoro Government Compound, Cotabato City (26 August 2020) —  The National Government appealing anew to the country’s health professionals to serve the country and join the fight against COVID-19.

National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. made the call at a press conference here, as he urged the nation’s nurses and doctors to help augment the medical workers who are serving in health facilities across the country.

“Sa ating mga health care workers, you are the real soldiers in this fight, nananawagan po ako sa nurses at doctors na ibigay ang serbisyo sa ating bayan. This is the time to serve our people, to serve humanity. Tugunan po natin ang pangangailangan ng ating bansa (To our health care workers, you are the real soldiers in this fight. I call on the nurses and doctors to provide service to our nation, this is the time to serve our people, to serve humanity. Let us help address the needs of our country.),” Galvez during a visit to the Regional Interagency Task Force on COVID-19 (RIATF COVID-19) – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The chief implementer said the Department of Health (DOH) is now hiring 10,000 health care workers, as well as redeploying nurses and doctors to areas with high cases of COVID-19 such as the National Capital Region (NCR).

Galvez noted that under the newly ratified Bayanihan To Heal As One Act or “Bayanihan 2,” additional compensation and other benefits shall be given to health care workers who will volunteer to join help in the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.


Ramping up health, testing capacity

Aside from implementing measures to boost the human resources capital of the country’s health sector, NTF COVID-19 continues to help ramp up the testing capacity of local government units.

The task force turned over 10,000 COVID-19 test kits and 900 GeneXpert cartridges to the RIATF COVID-19 – BARMM.

Aside from these medical supplies, Galvez, Jr. also facilitated the donation of an additional Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine for the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC).

The Chief Implementer learned from Interior and Local Government Minister Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo that the lack of testing kits and testing machines at the CRMC has affected the capability of the BARMM to immediately process test results.

As a result, Sinarimbo said the specimens have to be brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City for processing.

Galvez immediately discussed the concern with testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon who pledged to donate the RT-PCR machine.

“We need to scale up the testing capacity of the CRMC and this (additional machine) will add up to 1,000 tests conducted per day. We will also support you in order for every province to have at least one Level III Hospital to preserve the lives of COVID and non-COVID patients,” he said.


Scaling up contact tracing

As the National-Bangsamoro IATF meeting was being held, COVID-19 tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjie Magalong and Head of the NTF Sub-Task Group on Current Operations Atty. Wilben M. Mayor were conducting a workshop on contact tracing for BARMM personnel.

“Very important ang contact tracing kasi kahit anong gawin natin na interventions pero hindi sila ma-trace, hindi rin mare-reduce [ang COVID-19 cases] (Contact tracing is very important because whatever interventions we do, if we cannot trace them, the [COVID-19 cases] will not be reduced),” said BARMM RIATF on COVID-19 Chairman and Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Al Haj.

Mayor Magalong, whose city has been lauded for having one of the best contract tracing systems in the country,  said the key to effective and efficient contact tracing is the full cooperation and support of LGUs.

“We have to take contact tracing efforts to another level. I wish more mayors will be actively involved because there is a direct correlation between contact tracing and level of involvement of the mayor,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar, who was also present during the workshop, explained the government’s communications strategy to LGUs, as he emphasized that “an informed public is an involved public.”

Andanar said the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) continues to carry out strategic information campaigns to create a greater level of awareness among the general public on the need to follow minimum health standards.

Also present during the meeting were OPAPP USec. David B. Diciano, Ret. BGen. Cesar D. De Mesa, Min. Abdulraof Macacua, Min. Eduard Uy Guerra, Min. Dickson P. Hermoso, Min. Mohagher Iqbal, Min. Hussein Muñoz, Min. Zulkarnain Abas, MP Suharto Ambolodto, and CabSec Asnin Pendatun.###