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DOH waits for add’l SRA funding for 17K workers

The Department of Health has already asked for additional funds for the Covid-19 special risk allowance (SRA) of 17,000 more healthcare workers.

Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said yesterday that the initial P311 million worth of SRA has been downloaded to DOH regional offices, and intended for at least 20,208 healthcare workers.

“We are already asking for additional batch of money or funds from the Department of Budget and Management so that we may also include those who are not part of the 20,000 health care workers,” she said.

For front-liners who were not able to submit their requirements before the Aug. 26 deadline, Vergeire said submissions are still open.

“We are giving them time to submit their requirements to their facilities which will then forward the documents to our regional offices,” she said.

Vergeire said the DOH also wants to provide SRA to other healthcare workers not directly assigned to Covid-19 wards, but it is not possible yet due to limitations set by law.

“If it is only possible, we will do that. Of all the agencies, we at the DOH are the allies of health care workers because we are health care workers, too, and we have an obligation to take care of them,” Vergeire said.

“But as much as we want to give everybody, we are limited by existing laws and policies that we have right now in the country. It is stated in the law that this is only for those directly catering to Covid-19 patients and we follow that,” she added.

Under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, only public and private health workers “directly catering to or in contact with Covid-19 patients” are entitled to a Covid-19 SRA.

But Vergeire said lawmakers have already made commitments to amend the law and once it is done, the DOH will follow.

“Once the law is amended, we will do that. There will be no problem with us,” she said.

GENOME CENTER EXPANSION

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines- Philippine Genome Center can now expand its operations to Visayas and Mindanao and increase bio-surveillance capacity by September or October after the approval of its P295.7 million budget.

Vergeire said the budget was downloaded last week and trainings are being conducted.

The required equipment and supplies will be procured next week.

“Once this is done, hopefully in about one to one and a half months, we can already start,” she said, adding that logistical limitations pose a challenge for regions, especially from the Visayas and Mindanao, to send their samples to Manila.

The PCG can process at least 750 samples per week but once the expansions are done, Vergeire said the output will be doubled and the two islands’ weekly capability may reach at least 350 samples each.

Vergeire reminded that the whole genome sequencing does not serve as a “point of care intervention” for those with coronavirus disease 2019.

She said local government units do not need to wait for the results before they begin with case management protocols.

“The cases are already Covid-19 positive so the response should be immediate,” she said.*PNA

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