Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Monday the Department of Health (DOH) should divert its proposed P11.7 billion budget for contact tracers to COVID-19 treatment instead.
“It will be wiser and more practical to divert the P11.7 billion for the treatment of patients. We need funds to treat our sick kababayans,” Sotto said.
“Mas mahalagang gamitin na lang ang pondong ito para sa pagbili ng mga gamot at medical equipment na makakatulong sa paggaling ng mga pasyente,” he added.
(It is more important to use that fund in buying medicine and medical equipment to help patients recover.)
He also reminded DOH to be “more prudent” in using government funds, noting the money could be wasted if those who would be hired are not trained for the job.
“Contact tracing can only be effective if you use people who are trained in investigation like how they handled it in Baguio. If the DOH hires people who have no experience in investigation, then the program is practically useless,” Sotto said.
“The people they will hire will just ask black and white questions and get answers that will not yield the needed information to help the government track down people who might have contaminated the virus,” he added.
Philippines in need of contact tracers
Sotto told DOH to tap other government agencies as contact tracers instead of hiring additional employees.
“It can coordinate with other government offices and tap displaced employees to carry out the task at no additional cost to the government,” Sotto said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier also 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 Francisco Duque III.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier listed the qualifications for a contact tracer, which included at least two years in college and one year of relevant experience. DOH also prefers applicants with a medical background, particularly nurses, or graduate or undergraduate of other medical courses.
Applicants also need to have ‘social skills’ due to the interviews that need to be conducted during the contact tracing.