THE Department of Health (DOH) assured private hospitals on Wednesday that the government is doing everything to ensure that the country is prepared for the possible entry of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).

In a statement, DOH Secretary Janette Garin said that she met with representatives of private hospitals to update them of the government preparations and response to MERS-CoV.

“We highlighted the importance of thorough history-taking and immediate reporting of suspected cases by private hospitals,” said Garin.

She added that the private hospitals were informed of MERS-CoV-related DOH interventions, such as contact tracing of infected individuals, enhanced surveillance, capacity building of laboratories and referral hospitals, and PhilHealth coverage for confirmed MERS-CoV cases.

The meeting comes on the heels of the statement of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPi) that most private hospitals are not prepared to handle MERS-CoV cases.

According to PHAPi president Rustico Jimenez, only a few private hospitals in the Philippines are capable of admitting and treating MERS-CoV patients.

Latest data show that there have been 154 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV reported in South Korea, including 19 deaths.

Despite this development, the health chief said the country will continue to heed the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation against imposing travel bans.

“The WHO does not recommend the imposition of any travel, trade, or screening restrictions related to MERS-CoV,” said Garin.

Garin said they believe that the measures undertaken by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) are sufficient at the moment.

“It (BOQ) is closely monitoring all points of entry in the Philippines to ensure the surveillance of all incoming travelers from different countries,” said Garin.

The health department also reiterated its call for travelers, whether tourists or migrant workers, to maintain a high level of vigilance, especially those coming from MERS-CoV – infected countries.

“All incoming passengers to honestly and completely fill out the health declaration checklist (yellow form) as an initial yet significant participation to prevent MERS-CoV in entering the Philippines,” said Garin.

She also encouraged the public to observe basic hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing with soap and water, practicing proper cough manners, and using of hand sanitizers, to prevent MERS-CoV infection. (HDT/Sunnex)