Senate approves bill strengthening disease surveillance, reporting
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate approved on Monday, February 4, the bill seeking to strengthen the way the Department of Health (DOH) will report and respond to cases of communicable or infectious diseases.
Senate Bill 2186, sponsored by Senate committee on heath and demography chairman Joseph Ejercito, amends Republic Act (RA) 3573 or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases created in 1929. RA 3573 mandates all individuals and health facilities to report notifiable diseases to national and local health officials.
Among infectious diseases listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) are dengue, measles, cholera, and smallpox, among others. (READ: A year after Dengvaxia: Immunization drops, measles outbreaks soar)
Ejercito said an update of the law was needed since several medical and scientific breakthroughs and advancement have happened since it was enacted.
“New diseases and epidemics had been discovered. However, the law has remained untouched. The list of reportable or communicable diseases under the law has not been updated for 9 decades,” he said.
What the bill proposed: Under the bill, the public will be protected from health threats by establishing an efficient and effective diseases surveillance system for “notifiable diseases.” These diseases include emerging and reemerging infectious diseases and those up for elimination and eradication.
If the bill becomes law, monitoring and protecting the public from health events which involve chemical, radio-nuclear, and environmental agents “of public health concern” will become mandatory. It will also create a health response system that complies with the World Health Organization’s 2015 International Health Regulations.
SB 2186 mandates the DOH to establish criteria for diseases considered to be public health concerns to be monitored. The health department’s epidemiology bureau will also be in charge of updating and issuing a list of “notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern.”
The DOH would likewise be tasked with creating and maintaining disease surveillance and response systems. These systems should include coordination mechanisms as well as protocols for reporting and responding to diseases of public health concern.
The bill also mandates the disease surveillance system to observe data security and confidentiality of patients. Health workers should also be assured about safety when conducting disease surveillance and response activities.
The proposed law likewise gives the health secretary the authority to declare epidemics of both national and international concern. In cases of national security, though, the bill provides that the president can declare a state of public health emergency and mobilize government agencies in response.
Under the bill, provincial, city, or municipal health officers can only declare an outbreak in their respective areas if there is sufficient scientific evidence, which is based on “disease surveillance date, epidemiologic investigation, environmental investigation, and laboratory investigation.”
Those who will violate the said provisions under the bill will be fined not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000, or face imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than 6 months. Violators may also face both jail time and a fine, upon the discretion of courts.
The Professional Regulatory Commission will also have the authority to suspend or revoke the license of medical professionals who violate provisions of the proposed act. Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission can revoke or suspend any medical worker’s eligibility for public service.
SB 2186 is a consolidated version of similar bills filed by Senators Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, and Risa Hontiveros. It was transmitted by the House of Representatives last February 2018. – Rappler.com