ON SEPTEMBER 25, 2020, the Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio released Executive Order (EO) No. 53, which is “An order requiring mandatory Covid-19 RT-PCR testing for patients referred to hospitals in Davao City and for other purposes.”
At a glance, the intentions of the EO were good -- to control the Covid-19 cases in Davao City; ensure that health facilities in the city are able to manage Covid-19 cases and other diseases; protect healthcare workers of non-Covid-19 hospitals from unnecessary exposure to Covid-19 patients.
Since the Covid-19 began, the city has designated the Southern Philippines Medical Center as the primary Covid-19 hospital. This is to protect the local health system from collapsing. Later on, as cases continue to rise, the Davao Doctors Hospital Dumoy Satellite was opened to be the city’s other Covid-19 health facility.
With the release of the EO, it is clear that the city wants to maintain this order. Duterte-Carpio even cited several incidents of suspected Covid-19 patients, who later tested positive, exposed health workers in some of the health facilities in the city.
Under the EO, a patient, regardless of residence, will be required to have a negative RT-PCR result with specimen taken 24 hours to 48 hours from admission or surgery and a chest x-ray showing that the patient is negative for pneumonia taken 24 hours to 48 hours from admission or surgery.
While we understand the intentions of the EO, it also poses a serious problem for individuals with non-Covid-19 related conditions and also those who are already struggling financially to meet their medical needs.
The requirements are a financial burden for many. In some hospitals, RT-PCR tests vary between P1,750 to P2,000. Other hospitals and testing facilities offer it between P4,000 to as much as P10,000. One test alone is already burdensome for those who will have to go to the hospital regularly for check-ups.
However, the biggest issue here is how the EO will prevent or discourage some from going to the hospital to get a check-up. Getting an RT-PCR test and an x-ray is not only financially heavy for many but it also complicates the process of getting treated. This will be a hassle for many families, especially those who are living in far-flung areas in the city.
It will also prevent those living in other parts of Mindanao from getting proper healthcare or treatment. Compared to other areas in Mindanao, Davao City’s healthcare system is advanced and many will not need to go to Cebu or Manila to get treated.
Because of the additional process that non-Covid-19 patients have to go through, many would just opt to stay at home and not go to the hospital. This could result in health complications and, worse, death.
Therefore, the city government of Davao must take another look at this EO. We know that with its medical consultants, the city can come up with a better policy that could protect the health workers in the city.
One of the things we can think about is intensifying and improving the existing telemedicine to encourage people to call and consult with their doctors first before going to the hospital. Another is redirecting all individuals who have symptoms related to Covid-19 to proceed to the Covid-19 designate health facility instead of the other clinics or hospitals.
EO 53 puts a burden on the patients and families who are already struggling with their finances. It also puts patients at risk as they have to undergo additional processes before they can get their treatment. It may discourage them from getting treatment altogether.
The city may have to come up with a different strategy that does not burden those who are in need of other medical treatment.