Lacson flags 'pattern' of DOH buying higher-priced equipment vs COVID-19

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Lacson flags 'pattern' of DOH buying higher-priced equipment vs COVID-19
File photo shows Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said the health department has repeatedly bought equipment needed to combat COVID-19 in the country at higher prices.

He said the department was using the novel coronavirus pandemic as an "an opportunity for self-aggrandizement" and called it "the height of callousness and greed," in an interview with ABS-CBN News. 

Lacson pointed out that the Department of Health has purchased nucleic acid extraction machines which are used to test for COVID-19 from American manufcturer Kingfisher for P4 million while the private sector purchased machines from Chinese firm Sansure for less than half the cost at P1.75 million. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a hearing on Tuesday told Lacson that the Kingfisher brand was purchased because other brands would not be compatible with other equipment in the country's labs purchased from US manufacturers.

However, Lacson said he has since confirmed with medical professionals that the brand Sansure is compatible with at least five other machines. He added that, aside from the private sector, the Philippine Red Cross also uses Sansure extraction machines. 

Lacson also questioned the health department for spending $32 on each swabbing kit when they can be bought from Chinese firms for $12 per kit. 

Meanwhile, he said, sets of personal protective equipment (PPE), are purchased by private groups for P1079 per piece, or P900 less than what the government pays.

The senator added that, while there is "a clear pattern" of overpricing, the "reckoning" should be saved for later to avoid distracting the Department of Health and other officials from addressing COVID-19.

Duque has recently come under fire for saying that the Philippines was experiencing a second wave of COVID-19, with lawmakers questioning how a second wave could be possible when the curve has yet to be flattened due to a lack of testing. He has since walked back those claims. 

The Philippines currently has a total of 13, 434 cases of COVID-19 and fatality rate of 846. 







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