Atienza: Oh where, oh where have the PPEs gone?

JUST last week, a Covid-19 patient’s family member called SunStar Cebu to complain they were allegedly “charged” for a “donated” PPE. An outraged group of frontliners castigated SunStar for bringing up such a topic or speculation.

Yet the whole story is much longer than that.

With the whole Cebu caught in feverish frenzy raising funds to buy personal protection equipment (PPE) for the frontliners, they soon realized the color of their money was not good enough. There simply were no PPE available to buy.

The unfulfilled fund-raising buying objective soon mutated into a sewing frenzy. People turned to producing homemade cover-alls and masks as much-needed substitutes to protect our health workers. Displaced cutters, sewers and sewing machine owners volunteered their equipment and services at nominal fees to augment the PPE shortfall. And thus started a whole informal industry of Cebuano PPE producers.

It is no wonder then that many people assumed that all PPE were “donated” items. When they saw that one hospital charged them for a PPE, they wondered and wanted an explanation.

This week, the story has shifted focus. This week, the frontliners themselves are asking where their PPE have gone!

“We don’t get enough PPE,” they said. “Please give your donation of PPE directly to us,” the frontliners beg, “because sometimes we don’t receive them at all.”

So where, oh where have the PPEs gone?

We called our Cebu City Hall contacts and they said they had enough PPE to supply certain public hospitals.

Yet rumors continue to proliferate that donated temperature scanners, masks and coveralls have found their way outside hospitals and are being sold individually to private citizens. So much so that patients and even the frontliners themselves now have to pay to get access to PPE, their much-needed first line of defense!

Granted that these are just speculation and rumors as of now, it is but right that the community be informed in order to correct any potential anomalies. Likewise, we all have a responsibility to be aware and to ask what is going on.

First and foremost, government officials must train their ear on this latest development. One phone call to a newspaper may seem an oddity but when more rumors surface, it is time to revisit the old adage saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” (or embers thereof).

Secondly, those organizations and individuals who solicit and receive monetary donations for PPE and other forms of Covid aid must be brought up to date. It is their responsibility to use donated money wisely and to ensure that they get to those who need it the most. Let us not, with good intentions but careless attitude, throw good money after bad.

One would like to think that in a period of pandemic, everyone would put the welfare of victims and frontliners ahead of pecuniary and/or political interest. But the temptation to sin is part of the human condition and mankind must struggle with it on a daily basis.

And, therefore, and despite this period of pandemic, it is but prudent and fair to ask and to seek the answer to where have the PPE gone?


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