Sigue: Call for a public health strategy (Part 2)

Disruptive Mode

LAST week, I shared the first two of four imperatives if we are to reduce the toll on our country that coronavirus is laying on our country. This is a collaboration among Dr. Brian Michael Cabral, former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who is a fellow of The Outstanding Women in Nation Service (Towns) awardee and Michael Sy.

A solid public health strategy will play a major role in how economic, social and security scenarios will pan out. Our almost knee-jerk reaction to a global pandemic that started last year has been lately a controversial point of debate among different stakeholders.

People’s opinion drive systems now instead of the other way around. This is a red alert zone for systems thinkers among us. The material is divided into four parts, namely, knowing the enemy, taking care of the ill, protecting the front-liners and protecting the citizenry. For this week, I shall share the last two imperatives in toto.

Protecting the frontliners

As of this writing, twelve doctors have died fighting coronavirus. That is 20 percent of all who have died from the disease. More health professionals are gravely ill from it. Hundreds are out of commission as PUIs and PUMs themselves. Doctors will fight to keep you alive. Nurses and other health professionals will too. But do not send them to battle without arms. They will die and we will have no one. Then we will die too. Let us protect them. One way is to make sure they are armed with adequate personal protective equipment. Gowns, masks, goggles, etc. we cannot rely on imports. The whole world is scrambling for PPEs for their own health workers.

Homemade PPEs are well intentioned and at the moment, the frontliners are wearing them for want of anything better. But there is not enough of even that. It's time for industry to retool and produce what our frontliners need. PPEs that work, that have been tested to work and in numbers necessary to meet the demands of all of them, right down to the last doctor and nurse.

Let’s wake the captains of industry up! While some of our volunteer health workers appreciate the P500 per day allowance, the issue goes beyond being given a “below minimum wage” allowance. Beyond the issue of money is proper protection, ample tools with which to practice their art and science, and an assurance that they will be taken care of should they fall ill in the line of duty and the unbreakable promise that their families will not be abandoned should they have to make the ultimate sacrifice. We note that the DOH has promised to look into increasing this allowance so that it does not add to the insult and stigmatization that some of our health workers are experiencing.

Protecting the citizenry

Getting through this crisis is not just about ensuring the health of the citizens, but the ability of everyone to get through the calamity in a state where they can get back on their feet -- not to mention survive.

Workers, business people, government employees -- everyone will need aid when the health crisis is over. The time to think through scenarios is now. If there are no assurances on what the other side looks like after the health portion of the crisis is over, the civil crisis that follows may even be worse.

The time to think about government policies is now. Set the expectation, control the story, and deliver in due time. We said four things, and yes, those are critical, but we also have to get competent people to run this organization. Get a team of able-bodied leaders with real world experience in every aspect of the problem and who have been proven they can lead -- with ability, brilliance, even, with integrity and focus. Enable them. Completely.

This is a life and death situation, not just for individuals, but for the country. This is not an exercise for politicians who want to showboat.

Unfortunate, but it seems that the IATF and the DOH appear to be fumbling and serving too many masters. The coronavirus tragedy will not disappear on April 30. We need to build the infrastructure, we need to develop our human resources. The next disaster is just around the corner. We need to be better prepared. We need to act now.


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