To further strengthen COVID-19 response in the region, the local chief executives (LCEs) of Tacloban City and Leyte Province agreed to cooperate more closely with each other in implementing protocols to combat COVID-19.
In a dialogue organized by the DILG, Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez of Tacloban City and Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico L. Petilla discussed various issues regarding COVID-19 faced by local governments today, among them border checkpoints, quarantine and isolation processes, requirements for Authorized Persons Outside Residences (APORs), dialysis patients, transport of COVID and non-COVID patients, and an inventory of health care workers, among others.
The dialogue initiated by DILG 8 Regional Director Karl Caesar R. Rimando was likewise attended by the Office of Civil Defense Regional Director (OCD-RD) Lord Byron A. Torrecarion, Officer-In-Charge Assistant Regional Director (OCD OIC-ARD) Rey Gozon, Dr. Lillibeth Andrade, and Marvin Allen Guy-Joco of the Department of Health.
Along with Governor Petilla were Leyte Provincial Health Officer Dr. Lesmes C. Lumen and Provincial Administrator Atty. Edgardo Cordeno. Along with Mayor Romualdez were City Health Officer Dr. Gloria Fabrigas, and City Administrator Atty. Aldrin Jude Quebec.
In his message, Mayor Romualdez expressed his readiness to work with other local government units (LGUs), and his preference that other LGUs outside Tacloban be the ones to implement stricter measures as most COVID-19 cases come from outside the city.
He said he is wary of closing the city as it is the regional center of business. He likewise noted that there seems to be a lack of adequate training and equipment to protect health workers, considering the rise of COVID-19 among their population. Mayor Romualdez further highlighted the fact that about 70% to 80% of the 450 patients undergoing dialysis every week in Tacloban come from outside the city.
Meanwhile, Governor Petilla said there are no stringent border restrictions in Leyte, but welcomed the opportunity to work with the city government on coordinating checkpoints with towns bordering Tacloban. He reported that anyone in Leyte who tests positive is immediately sent to the local quarantine facility. The province does not allow home quarantine as infection often occurs in residences aside from offices. He reported that they have systems in place for Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), wherein they are fetched at the airport by a team and subsequently, by LGU vehicles to their respective quarantine facilities. He said that while this system is not perfect, it is able to manage persons who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19.
The city and provincial health officers joined in requesting the health department to provide adequate dormitory facilities for dialysis patients and their caregivers at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) Magsaysay compound. This is to prevent cross-transmission among patients, health care workers, and caregivers. OCD RD Torrecarion announced that his office is willing to donate additional beds for EVRMC to alleviate the situation.
Director Rimando further asked the local chief executives present to allow their respective local health officers to join the officers of the Philippine Medical Association who will be invited to the upcoming joint meeting between the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF) and the Regional Task Force (RTF) on COVID-19 on Friday, September 11, 2020.
Dr. Annabel Andrade, Assistant Regional Director of DOH, expressed happiness that the city and provincial governments were looking forward to working with each other and with other LGUs. She said this will help implement the National Action Plan against COVID-19, while balancing the need of the economy.
She likewise urged both LGUs to strengthen their respective Temporary Treatment Facilities (TTMFs), pursue 2nd and 3rd level contact tracing to address gaps, and to continue providing services for other diseases. She said that if the protocols being followed against COVID-19 are good, then the economy will improve. She called for similar activities in the future to help LGUs and national agencies calibrate their strategies against COVID-19.
Participants called for additional meetings involving other LGUs within the region, in order to streamline and standardize protocols. Director Rimando said that the discussions in the dialogue will serve as valuable inputs for the joint RIATF and RTF meeting and expressed hope that the strengthened cooperation will help reduce COVID-19 infections.