DOH allocates P500 M for Ebola preparedness
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Some P500 million is being allocated to upgrade the laboratory of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) to contain Ebola if ever the virus reaches the country.

Secretary Enrique Ona said the fund will be taken from the Department of Health (DOH)’s budget of P500 million for disaster response.

RITM is upgrading laboratory hospitals from biosafety level 2 to 3 or 4 to make them more capable to treat and contain potentially high risk infection agents, he added.

Ona assured the public that RITM is ready to respond to the threat of Ebola.

It is equipped with detection technology and has trained personnel, he added.

RITM has developed a “triage system” of screening and evaluating suspected Ebola-infected patients, while health workers have been trained to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Doctors and other health workers are at a special area at the RITM entrance to screen walk-in patients for possible Ebola infection.

Those referred from other health facilities and walk-in patients showing symptoms of Ebola infection shall be directly brought to the triage area for further evaluation.

RITM director Dr. Soccoro Lupisan said they have diagnostic test equipment to confirm Ebola cases.   

“We may lack in facilities, but we are capable to manage possible Ebola cases and we are ready to share our capabilities to other hospitals,” she said.

Lupisan said the RITM has a 50-bed capacity, including seven negative pressure isolation rooms and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to accommodate suspected Ebola patients. 

Ona said the DOH also plans to use part of the P500 million to buy additional PPE and for the launching of a campaign to raise awareness on Ebola.

“We still do not know how much will be needed, but the RITM said they need to upgrade their laboratory so I said go ahead,” he said.

The DOH is undertaking all necessary measures to ensure the country remains Ebola-free, he added

Ona said the DOH has already distributed 2,000 PPEs to the different medical facilities for the protection of doctors and other health workers.

PPEs include headgear, power air purifying respirator, breathing tube, battery for eight-hour use, scrub suit, gloves, cover all, mask and goggles.

Prices of different types of PPEs range from P1,500 to P60,000.


Medical personnel at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals are ready with their PPEs against any arriving passenger suspected to be infected with the Ebola virus.

Quarantine head doctor Alexander Oba said they have already bought rubberize coats, gloves, protective masks and rubber boots since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The complete suit costs about P2,000 each, he added.

Oba said doctors have been assigned at the airports to check arriving passengers for the Ebola virus.

Only doctors through their “clinical eye” can determine without thermal scanners if an arriving passenger is sick or weak, he added.

Oba said the Ebola virus might not even reach the Philippines.

“The virus would travel to at least three more countries before the Philippines,” he said.

“So it would be dead when it arrives here.

Oba said the suit is so expensive, but that In some rich countries they are disposable.

“But I am considering soaking the suit after use in sodium hypochlorite that can kill germs and other viruses,” he said.

Oba said sodium hypochlorite is a compound  used for water purification.

“It is used on a large scale for surface purification, bleaching, odor removal and water disinfection,” he said.

Oba said probably they can use a suit twice before being disposed. 

“We have a proper procedure and place for disposal,” he said.

Mers-Cov patient

Health authorities in Zamboanga City are monitoring a 70-year-old pilgrim from Mecca showing symptoms of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (Mers-Cov).

Dr. Rodelyn Agbulos, Zamboanga City Health Officer, said the patient, whose name was withheld for privacy, is under quarantine while the RITM is conducting laboratory examination.

The pilgrim was the fourth case to be reported after three others were found to be negative of the virus.

Agbulos said they have already taken a throat swabbing sample and sent it to RITM for laboratory examination to determine if the victim is infected with Mers-Cov.

“Actually there is one submitted which we suspect but again not a confirmed case of Mers-Cov because there is different diagnosis that we can get from the signs and symptoms presented,” he said.

“It could just be an ordinary influenza; it could be an ordinary fever secondary to mild infection.”

Agbulos said early last week three cases were also monitored and found to be negative of the Mers-Cov.

“These are actually not reported cases, these are actually still suspects,” he said.

Dr. Venus Fortuna, Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) for Western Mindanao chief, said monitoring has been going on as they are still expecting thousands of pilgrims to arrive from Mecca.

Three cases monitored last week turned out to be negative of the virus, while the other   remained in isolation while awaiting laboratory results from RITM, she added.

Fortuna assured the public that the hospital   has infection control protocols like an isolation unit.

“So that no one can enter except the health personnel in charge,” she said. – With Rudy Santos, Roel Pareño

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