MANILA, Philippines – The national government directed hospitals and local government units to cremate bodies of patients who die of COVID-19 within the prescribed 12 hours, regardless if dues are still unpaid and documents are not yet processed.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Sunday, April 12, that this was the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet following reports that bodies of COVID-19 patients and those suspected to have the disease have been piling up in morgues.
Nograles said that some of the delays in the cremation include unpaid fees by families of the deceased patients as well as documents that are not processed on time.
“So ang bottomline, ang napagkasundan ng Gabinete, we must stick to the 12-hour rule ng cremation. Everything else – papeles, bayad – those are problems that can be solved at mahanapan natin ng solution,” the Cabinet Secretary said in a virtual press conference.
(So the bottomline is, the Cabinet agreed that we must stick to the 12-hour rule on cremation. Everything else – papers, payment – those are problems that can be solved and we can find a solution later on.)
Nograles, however, did not say how exactly the national government plans to help families of COVID-19 victims who are unable to pay their hospital dues on time.
“Ang assurance po natin na mahanapan natin ng solusyon pagdating sa bayad,” he said.
(We give the assurance that we would be able to find a solution when it comes to the payments.)
Nograles made the statement following a CNN Philippines report that cadavers of patients under investigation for COVID-19 have been piling up at the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City. EAMC spokesperson Dr Dennis Ordoña admitted that this was true due to lack of equipment like freezers to store cadavers.
No order to 'supress' information on deaths
On Sunday, the Cabinet Secretary denied claims the national government has supposedly ordered hospitals to withhold information on the actual number of COVID-19 deaths.
“Another report we wish to respond involves allegations that the government has given directives kuno to suppress information regarding COVID-19 fatalities. Sa madaling salita, hindi po ito totoo,” Nograles said.
(Another report we wish to respond involves allegations that the government has given directives to suppress information regarding COVID-19 fatalities. This is not true.)
The Department of Health (DOH) also denied making such an order, saying it would investigate the allegations.
To date, the Philippines has recorded a total of 4,428 cases of COVID-19 so far, 247 of which were fatal. Only 157 patients have recovered from the contagious disease.
The government is now requiring the public disclosure of the personal information of COVID-19 positive patients as part of its bid to boost contact tracing efforts, which is now the primary responsibility of the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD).