Marikina to DOH: Don't just impose rules, be local government's partner

MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Marcelino Teodoro on Monday, March 23, called on the Department of Health (DOH) to be more responsive to initiatives by local government units (LGUs), and not just impose rules that may derail their response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The city government had wanted to establish the Marikina Molecular Laboratory and procure test kits. However, the DOH said on Sunday that it had yet to certify the local laboratory, while the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases amended a resolution to reflect that “all LGUs must first coordinate with the Department of Health prior to acquiring, purchasing or utilizing testing kits within their respective territorial jurisdictions.”

"It is imperative for the DOH to be proactive to the initiative of the LGU in efforts to combat the threats of COVID-19, and not merely invoke regulations to follow and comply with as well as issue guidelines," Teodoro said on Monday.

"A system or network of health service delivery should be in place between the national and local governments to better serve the people in times of crisis," the mayor added. 

Teodoro and Dr Imelda Mateo of the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center gave assurances that all standards and protocols set by the DOH would be followed.

Teodoro asked the DOH not to treat Marikina City as a client applying for a license to operate a laboratory facility for COVID-19 testing, but as a partner. 

“It should be [treated as] a partnership. This is a whole of government approach kung saan nagtutulong-tulong ang lokal at national. Kung ano ang kakulangan sa national ay pinupunan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan,” Teodoro said in a statement on Monday, March 23.

(This is a whole of government approach where the local and national [governments] help each other. Whatever limitations the national has will be augmented by the local government.)

The mayor said that the Marikina Molecular Laboratory will also benefit nearby cities because it will be a shared facility. Ultimately, the goal is to save more lives, he said. 

Teodoro emphasized the importance of testing for detection so that the spread of the coronavirus will be contained. Mass testing, he said, is needed as soon as possible. (READ: Where are testing centers for coronavirus in PH?)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the coronavirus as a pandemic that has affected hundreds of thousands and killing nearly 14,000 across the globe.

In the Philippines, the DOH reported 462 COVID-19 cases, 33 deaths, and 18 recoveries as of Monday night. (READ: Philippines coronavirus cases rise to 462, death toll hits 33)

“We should make these test kits commercially available for all. We should be able to ensure that testing is ‘democratized,’ open access sa lahat ng Pilipino, lalo dun sa mga mahihirap na hindi kaya magpatingin sa mga pribadong ospital (to all Filipinos especially to the poor who cannot afford to go to private hospital),” Teodoro said.

The Research Institute of Tropical Medicine will be working with the Marikina Molecular Laboratory, Dr Mateo said.

Teodoro also emphasized that the Marikina lab was set up under the supervision of experts from the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UP-NIH). (READ: U.P. coronavirus test kits may be rolled out on March 16)

Marikina will procure 3,000 COVID-19 testing kits from Manila Health Te, the first biotechnology private company for health in the country, which also partners with the UP-NIH.

Doctors of the Marikina City Health Office (CHO) will be trained by scientists and doctors of the Manila Health Tek, Inc for the laboratory, Teodoro said. – Rappler.com