Headless chicken

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 19, 2021 - 12:00am

Ramon Tulfo’s comment must have hurt. He said the government is now steering the country like a “headless chicken” that is “running without direction.”

In his own words: “Hindi maganda ‘yung pamamalakad ngayon… ‘yung gobyerno, parang manok na naputulan ng ulo. Takbo lang nang takbo, walang direksyon,” Tulfo said in a television interview.

DOH folks, in their defense, are saying there is so much work going on that critics do not see.

That’s the point. So long as people are finding it difficult to get medical attention and there seems to be no direction in the flurry of activities, all the work supposedly being done means nothing.

Eckie Gonzales, chairman of The Medical City, noted the confusion arising from DOH Covid Situationers, “which seem to be at odds with what we see happening at work (The Medical City) and in our neighborhood (Quezon City).”

But Duterte claims they have done well. He lamented that: “Ang Pilipinas, gaya ng Brazil and others, pare-pareho ang problema.”

Of course, Duterte had to choose the country with the worst record of responding to the virus. Brazil is also led by a mindless autocrat who, like Duterte, considered Covid as “maliit na bagay lang.”

Duterte should have compared us to regional performers like Vietnam, Taiwan, even Thailand. It is also disheartening that Duterte admitted last week that he has no idea when enough vaccines will arrive.

I guess the journalist in Tulfo couldn’t ignore what can be plainly seen as the number of cases mounting, with no end in sight. Isolated in his protective cocoon, Duterte has no idea of what’s going on in the country.

A good manager moves around to see things for himself. Duterte should check out hospital conditions, talk to healthcare workers and even patients waiting for admission to verify claims of Duque. But Duterte is afraid to catch the virus himself. Buti pa si VP Leni, hindi takot.

Now Duterte is threatening to send the army and the police to take over hotels to accommodate Covid patients turned away by hospitals. That will be a totally avoidable mess… if only Duterte’s minions provided for overflow capacity when they could. They had been warned about this need from the start of the pandemic.

DOH proved helpless and useless on other things.

For example, when the surge peaked over the last few weeks, DOH was unable to help families of patients looking for medical help. One Hospital Command was supposed to be the one number to call for help. But many complained their calls were unanswered or they ended up in a long queue.

In the land of call centers, no one among Duterte’s minions thought of hiring professional call centers to run One Hospital Command. Many call centers have trained and licensed nurses on staff who can answer the phones.

Again, VP Leni showed she was better than Duterte and his minions.

From the little resources she had, VP Leni was able to put up a call center manned by doctors who talked to patients about how to manage their Covid infection. Not all Covid positive people need to go to a hospital, but they all need to talk to a doctor to get guidance on how to manage their health.

VP Leni and the local government of Malabon City also set up a quarantine center extension for those who tested positive in their Swab Cab’s antigen testing initiative, but are incapable of isolating at home.

There are other basic things. The surge in demand for hospital beds must be met by a surge in supply of beds, but it isn’t as simple as the DOH asking all hospitals to raise covid capacity to 25 to 30 percent.

Unlike last year, non-covid patients are now showing up also requiring hospital beds. And with Covid cases at double the peak cases from last year, ICU beds are half the required supply.

Chairman Eckie of The Medical City has suggestions:

“First, as hospital network contact centers spring up to triage and optimize, let there be a better effort of the One Hospital Command to run a coordinating center of contact centers with integrated chat, email, and voice capabilities deserving of our country’s reputation as the BPO capital of the world.

“Second, last year, the DOH designated East Avenue Medical Center as a covid-dedicated hospital. For this accelerated surge, which requires an immediate doubling of capacity, only the national government can open up more rooms or dedicate hospitals quickly, underwriting the cost of servicing the 2x mass of covid cases.

“Alternatively, the government can fund ventilation systems to expand ICU capacity in private hospitals on deferred payment terms.

“Third, the private sector is financially hampered in its efforts to service an increasing number of severe covid cases without reimbursement. The Medical City, for example, has outstanding receivables of P1 billion from PhilHealth.

“And Philhealth itself needs recapitalization…

“Let corporate employers take care of their employees and their families… Indonesia lets the private sector procure. We need to quickly get to a better place like Chile, where no one needs to make an appointment to get a jab.”

But we will continue to suffer through this pandemic unless we have a President who can unite the nation. We need a servant leader who can make people work together, can make people volunteer their services the way doctors eagerly volunteered after VP Leni’s call.

Of course, we need a leader who talks sense, offers comfort to victims and their families.

Instead, we have Duterte who disappears for days then shows up on television cursing and reeking of hatred and anger. He ends up propagating lies and ignorance that only makes matters worse. Now is not the time to settle scores with political enemies like Leila de Lima.

When Duterte speaks, he divides the people right away. Last week, he was even more petty and childish. By his own admission, he was “parang bata.” Absolutely horrible for a president of a nation in deep crisis! Embarrassing for him and for every Filipino.

Duterte seems too dense to realize our enemy today is the Covid virus, not fellow Filipinos, dilawan or not.

Headless chickens, indeed. Mon Tulfo was being kind.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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