Go presses creation of CDC, medical reserve corps

Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure the government is one step ahead in protecting Filipinos from health threats, Sen. Bong Go renewed his call to include in the priority measures the creation of a Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the establishment of a Medical Reserve Corps.

Go explained that the proposed center will not replace the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), which does researches in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of tropical diseases and produces vaccines for the control of vaccine-preventable diseases, but merely take on some of the RITM functions.

Stressing the RITM’s important role during the pandemic, he is proposing to add other functions to the body and transfer some of its current functions to the proposed center.

Prior to the pandemic, Go said he had fought for the RITM’s budget, which proved to be a crucial decision when the pandemic arrived months later.

“At first, at the beginning of the pandemic, we relied on RITM for COVID-19 testing because they were the only ones with the ability. In fact, RITM’s budget was almost reduced in 2020 during the budget deliberations in 2019. I did not agree and, with the help of my colleagues in the Senate, we were able to raise the RITM budget. The RITM is an important office, but we didn’t know then because we didn’t know that COVID-19 would come,” he pointed out.

According to Go, the proposed center will not replace the RITM, which will continue to provide tertiary care to both in-patients and out-patients suffering from infectious diseases and conduct regular training courses for medical and paramedical personnel on the control of common tropical diseases in the country.

The center’s functions, under his proposed Senate Bill 195, would include investigating potential cases of public health emergency; enforcing regulations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases; procuring and distributing vaccines, antibiotics and other medical supplies; working with other countries and international organizations to improve disease prevention and control systems and practices.

Go also filed Senate Bill 1180 or the proposed “Medical Reserve Corps Act of 2022” to prevent situations in which health workers are overworked due to the volume of patients during public health emergencies, which limits the country’s ability to quickly and effectively combat diseases.

“In other countries, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have been instrumental in this pandemic. As experts in the field of infectious diseases, they are at the forefront of the health battle against COVID-19. It is high time for us to have our own,” Go said.

“We must also have a Medical Reserve Corps which may be called upon and mobilized to assist the national government and the local government units in their functions related to addressing the medical needs of the public in times of national emergencies. Those who are deployed should be properly compensated,” he added.

Go, who chairs the Senate committee on health and demography, expressed confidence that his initiatives will make the government better prepared to deal with any public health emergency in the future.

State of calamity

The Department of Health (DOH) said extending the state of calamity in the country for a month or two next year is necessary if Go’s SB 195 is not enacted into law before the year ends.

The extension, according to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, would allow the government to continue with its COVID-19 pandemic response.

“If this bill will not be enacted by the end of the year, that is the time we need to consider if we will request from the Office of the President another extension of the state of calamity even for just one or two months only. This is because we need to continue the response for COVID-19,” Vergeire said at a press briefing Friday.

“Right now, the state of calamity is there simply because of these different considerations that we have, like how we implement the emergency use authorization or EUA (for vaccines/medicines), how we launch our vaccination program for COVID-19, how we regulate the prices of commodities and goods during this time of the pandemic. All of these are aligned and linked to the state of calamity,” she pointed out.

Vergeire said that if the CDC bill would be enacted, “all of these provisions and considerations, they will already be included into this CDC bill.”

The Private Hospital Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPI) earlier said there is a need to extend the state of calamity at least until the first quarter of next year as it expressed fears on the difficulty of giving aid or assistance to people once the state of calamity is lifted.

President Marcos, in a declaration, extended the country’s state of calamity only until Dec. 31.

The extension allowed the government to continue implementing measures against COVID-19 and access pandemic response funds for this year. – Rhodina Villanueva



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