DOH should justify P11.7 billion budget for contact tracers-Sotto

Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked the Department of Health (DOH) to justify why they need P11.7 billion to hire additional 136,000 contact tracers. 

“DOH (Department of Health) wants to spend 10B to hire contact tracers. Mayor (Benjamin) ’s excellent Baguio contact tracing did not need an amount!” Sotto said in a tweet on Tuesday.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin earlier said, revealing the patients’ identities helped them with faster and efficient contact tracing.

“We must ask them to justify,” he added in a message to the reporters.

Senator Franklin Drilon meanwhile said the DOH should utilize around 400 thousand barangay health workers Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries to conduct the contact tracing.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, urged the DOH to mobilize civil society organizations and tap around 400 thousand barangay health workers and parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to carry out the contact tracing.

“To help expedite contact tracing, I propose that we assemble and activate existing government-organized and accredited groups. We can easily tap the over 200,000 Barangay Health Workers (BHWs), 200,000 parent-leaders from the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program, and members of DSWD-accredited Civil Society Organizations,” the senator said in a letter to Health Secretary III.

“Time is of the essence, and we must act expeditiously – tapping the above workers and leaders can save us precious time and help us combat COVID-19 efficiently,” he added, saying that “they can be quickly mobilized as contact tracers” since they are already organized.

Drilon also proposed DOH should also provide transportation allowance and protective gear such as face shield and mask to the contact tracers.

“Our objective to prevent the virus from spreading is based on our ability to efficiently identify the infected and notify those he or she has made contact with. Hence, contact tracing is a must and should never be neglected,” he added.

A World Health Organization (WHO) official in the Philippines earlier urged the government to work harder and speed-up its slow contact tracing of individuals who came in close contact with COVID-19 patients. 

“I would say we are slow… we need to push harder, and we really need to work harder,” Dr. Socorro Escalante told an online forum by the Philippine College of Physicians.