While Rome burned
SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2020 - 12:00am

“We know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.” This is the powerful message given by Ghanian President Nana Akufo-Addo during his address to his people on their nation’s COVID-19 response. 

Life first also from San Miguel Corp. chair Ramon Ang who has led the giant conglomerate in efforts to help both public and private sectors. Among the initiatives: P181 million in food donations, P500 million for PPEs, 100,000 liters of alcohol from converted Ginebra plants. This captain of industry has his priorities clear: “We can make money again but life, once you lose it, it’s gone forever. So between life and money, I’d choose life.”

In the US, President Donald Trump has sobered up from last week’s obstinate rants that America will open by Easter. His own strong message then was that “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”But even he could not argue with the science. Federal guidelines on social distancing are extended until at least April 30.

No one can tell what manner of apocalyptic economic wasteland will greet us when the suppressive lockdowns are lifted. Worst scenarios would have us in great depression era ruins. The threat to peace and stability could be equally devastating. Hence, the draw to augment the epidemiologic with the economic. 

Choose life. GDP growth metrics matter. But this is not a race between life and prosperity. If there is fake news, this one is a fake choice. It can’t be one or the other. They go hand in hand. Controlling the virus spread spells an earlier return to a healthier economy.

Lockdowns and distancing alone won’t do the job. We’ve suffered 20 days. With no announcements on what follows, we may be looking at another 20 days. A full quaranta. If this is the bitter medicine, we’ll take it. But are we getting better? 

How far have we come in shoring up our health supplies, specially ventilators, and our testing and tracing capacities? How disciplined are we in observing the mandatory quarantines, specially of positives as enforced in Wuhan? Have we identified quarantine facilities to unburden the overrun hospitals? Have there been support measures and stimulus packages for the day after? 

The score. In addition to the RITM, we now have the five subnational labs in operation plus 3 others: UP-NIH, WVMC and Bicol Public Health Laboratory. Up to 46 government and private hospitals have applied for accreditation. 

Secretary Carlito Galvez of the National Task Force has spoken of the forced segregation of patients and PUIs from their communities by April 14 and relying on barangay evaluations to declare communities clear. 

The Xavier School Alumni Association is provisioning the San Juan City science high school as a quarantine facility for PUIs providing hospital beds, mobile X-rays, medical supplies, front-line personnel, as well as food, water and necessities. The national government is refitting the PICC, World Trade Center, Rizal Memorial Coliseum and other stadia, hotels and establishments as isolation facilities.

The Task Group in resource management and logistics has an inventory of needs of PPEs and ventilators. The DOH has purchased 900,000 sets of PPEs. 

To mitigate the social and economic impact of the crisis, the government is implementing a three-pronged strategy anchored on providing emergency aid to vulnerable sectors, protecting health workers, and keeping the economy afloat.

Strategic National Stockpiling (SNS). The concept of SNS is understood as the reserving of resources at the national level to assure availability of life saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies in severe public health emergencies when local supplies prove inadequate. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need this discussion on ventilators. Never was it more appropriate to refer to these machines as lifelines.

Among health care workers manning the last lines of defense, respiratory therapists engaged in critical care, airway management and operating the ventilators as directed by doctors are crucial to the effort. The Association of Respiratory Care Practitioners Philippines (ARCPP) has called for the emergency purchase and stockpiling of at least 5,000 to 8,000 mechanical ventilators. The task group should include these professionals as part of their think tank for policy recommendations.

ARCPP data suggests there’s as much as 10,000 ventilators across the Philippines but in varying states of obsolescence. Those that work may not be clinically versatile enough to meet the needed functionalities of COVID-19 treatment, particularly in infection control. We wrote last week of 1,572 units from an informal survey of the Philippine College of Physicians. The DOH official count stands at only 1,263 working units nationwide. 

We’ve received six ventilator units by donation. The immediate procurement of 1,500 is underway but we’re competing with the rest of the world for these imported equipment. Meanwhile, we pin our hopes on the development of locally produced ventilators by the UP-NIH. Status: almost finished. 

“That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” Harvard Business Review’s Scott Berinato introduces grief expert David Kessler and his thoughts on acknowledging and managing feelings of grief. 

Key takeaways: the loss of normalcy; the fear of economic toll; the loss of connection. That unfamiliar feeling is collective grief. There is also anticipatory grief: something bad sure to come. Our sense of safety is gone. This is grief on micro and macro levels. 

Ignoring in your mind the worst that can happen can be painful. Acknowledge it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. 

Feel the grief, the fear, the anger. Your body is producing the feeling so allow them to happen. That should make it more orderly and empowering. Acceptance is power. 

Find that balance. Come into the present. Let go of what you can’t control. And stock up on compassion. That way we’re not victims.

Miracle corner. Senator Koko Pimentel and wife, Atty. Kathryn, are the proud parents of a daughter, Ma. Kathryn Helena. The Senator’s two sons are now kuyas to a baby sister. We wish them peace and good health. Congratulations!

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