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DOH probes Pharmally sale of substandard face shields

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
DOH probes Pharmally sale of substandard face shields
Duque’s statement to President Duterte during the weekly report to the nation was aired hours after the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) expressed concern that the substandard face shields and other PPEs sold by Pharmally might have exposed healthcare workers to COVID infection that led to the deaths of some HCWs.
STAR / Miguel De Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health is investigating the sale of damaged and expired personal protective equipment (PPEs) by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to the government, as admitted by an executive of the company, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said yesterday.

Duque’s statement to President Duterte during the weekly report to the nation was aired hours after the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) expressed concern that the substandard face shields and other PPEs sold by Pharmally might have exposed healthcare workers to COVID infection that led to the deaths of some HCWs.

Duterte initially scoffed at the report that the face shields bore expiry dates that a warehouse worker said he had altered, as instructed by Pharmally executive Krizle Grace Mago, who confirmed the tampering.

But Duque explained that unlike ordinary plastic face shields, medical grade face shields have protective foams on the upper rim that deteriorate over time and therefore have expiry dates.

Duque said he had ordered a probe into the statement of the warehouse worker and Mago, who can no longer be contacted by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee where she had given her testimony.

According to FNU president Maristela Abenojar, the issue of the defective PPEs supplied by Pharmally could not be disregarded because it could have compromised the health and welfare of HCWs who used them.

“The PPEs are supposed to protect the HCWs from COVID-19, but if they are defective or expired, they would no longer serve their purpose,” she told The STAR.

Data showed that a total of 25,422 HCWs have contracted COVID-19 as of Sept. 26. Of these, 105 died while 366 are considered as active cases.

The PPEs were purchased from Pharmally Pharmaceutical by the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) using part of the P42-billion fund downloaded by the Department of Health (DOH).

Abenojar also reiterated demands to lift the annual 6,500-cap in the deployment of medical frontliners, stressing that government should not hold back the nurses and other HCWs who want to work overseas since it could not provide them with adequate protection during the pandemic.

Cover up

Vice President Leni Robredo warned against a cover-up in the investigation on the alleged overpricing of medical supplies.

“There are many irregularities and there’s a big amount of money involved. Good thing there is a witness but there should not be a cover-up. I hope there won’t be a cover-up so the truth will come out and this won’t happen again,” Robredo said in Filipino on her weekly radio program.

Sen. Richard Gordon announced that Pharmally administrative officer Krizle Grace Mago could no longer be reached days after admitting that they tampered with the product certificate of face shields delivered to the DOH.

She also admitted that Pharmally’s multibillion-peso contracts were made possible due to assistance from government officials.

Pharmally bagged COVID-19 supplies contracts with the government worth P8.9 billion in 2020.

Rejected

Abenojar also rejected the DOH proposal to provide a “singular allowance” for medical frontliners that offered benefits based on categories of low-risk (P3,000), medium-risk (P6,000) and high-risk (P9,000).

According Abenojar, the proposed singular allowance is “a divisive and unjust cost-cutting measure” that effectively reduces what the HCWs are already receiving under present laws, like the P3,000 active hazard duty pay (AHDP), P5,000 special risk allowance (SRA) and P8,000 in meals, accommodation and transportation (MAT) allowance for health workers in both public and private sectors.

“This is actually a violation of the labor law that there should be no diminution in benefits of employees,” she added.

For Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza, the proposal is divisive and discriminating because only one type of benefit will be provided to health workers. – Pia Lee-Brago

FACE SHIELD HEALTH WORKERS PPE
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