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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday, May 26, said that the Philippines is short of 94,000 contact tracers for the ideal ratio of one contact tracer per 800 people to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“They have set this benchmark when you have one contact person per 800 persons in the country. So if we are going to look at that and consider what we have for now as to the number of contact tracers, we are short of about 94,000 if we are going to follow that benchmark,” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview with ANC.
On Monday, May 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) acting representative to the Philippines Dr Socorro Escalante sounded the alarm over “slow” contact tracing in the Philippines.
Reacting to Escalante’s statement, Vergeire said that, “not to say that we are slow but there are really issues in our health system and especially with regard to the identification of people who can do contact tracing.”
Contact tracers are healthcare personnel who track down the close contacts of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Vergeire, the Philippines is doing emergency hiring for contact tracers in the country.
“This would be in partnership with local government units, of course, who are the major implementers of major contact tracers,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire added that how much should be the salary of contact tracers was still under discussion.
“We have this emergency hiring program where we were allotted and we were approved by the government to hire at least 15,000 healthcare personnel. Of these 15,000 health care personnel, we might be able to identify those to be hired for our communities. But again, as I’ve said, this is in partnership with the local government units,” Vergeire explained.
The DOH earlier said that it has hired a total of 38,315 contact tracers that have been deployed nationwide as of May 14.
During a virtual press briefing on Wednesday, March 27, Vergeire said that the DOH is working with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for the contact tracing efforts.
Vergeire said that the DOH has proposed that a contact tracer must be an allied medical professional such as a nurse or at least a graduate or undergraduate of an allied medical course.
“We also suggested the following competencies to include data gathering, being able to interview cases and close contacts to gather data on travel history, and conduct health assessment, advocating public health because they need to provide health messages as well,” Vergeire said.
She added that the DILG may also consider tapping barangay health workers and social workers in support of the national response against COVID-19.
Those interested to apply may coordinate with their respective local chief executives and task forces.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 14,669 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 886 deaths and 3,412 recoveries. – Rappler.com