Due to the rising number of doctors and other healthcare workers (HCWs) who died because of the coronavirainst COVID-19, a doctors’ group on Wednesday called on the Department of Health (DOH) to subject them to periodic testing.
“This is the reality of our current situation,” said the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) Board of Regents.
The PCP urged the DOH and all testing facilities to allot test kits for the periodic testing of healthcare workers, so they can “eliminate and prevent further casualties in this war of attrition.”
The PCP said it strongly believes the periodic testing should be integrated in the process flow either before or after the quarantine period of HCWs.
“Periodic testing can reassure the HCWs and response teams that they are not a source of infection to their families and patients when they report back for work and resume their duties,” said the PCP.
“This will also improve the morale of our HCWs and give them the confidence to complete their jobs with minimal distractions,” they also said.
Furthermore, the PCP said setting up quarantine spaces for HCWs will not necessarily guarantee that they will not be exposed or expose others for the duration of their stay, further underscoring the need for periodic testing.
The PCP stressed that the overall success of the battle against the spread of COVID-19, along with the desired reduction in mortality and improvement in the rate of recovery among COVID patients, will greatly depend on the number and availability of healthcare workers for deployment during crisis situations.
The DOH had rightfully recommended a work schedule for each healthcare worker’s tour of duty broken down into two-week intervals of hospital work and quarantine.
However, the PCP board emphasized that it is missing out a crucial step considering the COVID infectivity rate and ability of the virus to produce asymptomatic carriers.
“Granted that standard personal protective equipment and engineering measures are in accordance with WHO and hospital guidelines, we cannot account for the HCWs’ exposure level at the end of their two week hospital rotation,” it added.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH has revised its policy for COVID-19 testing to include healthcare workers after receiving reports that frontliners were being denied tests by medical facilities.
She noted healthcare workers showing COVID-19 symptoms can now be considered persons under investigation.
She said the health department has been expanding the country’s COVID-19 testing capacity by certifying more laboratories.
Last week, several sub-national laboratories nationwide received certification to conduct independent COVID-19 testing from the national reference laboratory Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).