Ebola: a very real, serious threat
The threat is real and the warning direct. The Ebola outbreak is “the most severe public health emergency in modern times,” this according to the World Health Organization, which also warned that Ebola cases could reach 10,000 per week in West Africa. The United Nations, on the other hand, has expressed serious concerns abut Ebola’s winning the race.
“Is the Philippine Health Management System ready to deal with Ebola and other emerging diseases?” This was the topic of a recent “Talkback” episode that was hosted by Tina Monzon-Palma on ABS-CBN. The panel of resource persons from the Department of Health talked about quarantine officers assigned at Philippine airports to screen all passengers coming from West Africa. It also gave detailed information, including contact details, relative to the prevention, control and treatment of Ebola and other severe-to-fatal diseases; the education of health workers for the handling of such cases and the establishment of guidelines for the project. The DOH panel assured the public that should there be cases of Ebola in some remote rural area, the health department can send a team of experts for their care.
Prevention and infection control are key aspects in the challenge to stop the spread of severe and deadly diseases, especially those with no cure yet. For this, there is a need to raise the national awareness about Ebola—meaning, to inform the people of the requisite preventive steps that would help stop the spread of the disease and to mobilize them to take precisely such steps. But the sad fact is, since the implementation of the devolution law, the quality of the country’s public health system has generally declined and primary healthcare has been reduced to poor and ineffective services. There is an urgent need for the establishment of a national committee that should define the parameters for the prevention, control and treatment of the Ebola virus disease. The Ebola committee should be comprised not only of health workers but also of experts from schools of public health, infection-control nurses, medical specialists, and representative of NGOs and schools. And there should be collective community participation.
May I therefore suggest the following:
- The training of dedicated teams to handle Ebola cases and the establishment of strict protocols and guidelines.
- An effective and efficient system whereby hospitals equipped to treat Ebola patients (including suspected cases) are pinpointed for easier and faster referral. These hospitals should have the necessary isolation wards. Tied with this is the provision of protective clothing for all those involved in the care of patients and a system for the handling and disposal of all contaminated supplies, equipment and waste.
- The care of Ebola cases does not require high-tech and diagnostic procedures nor complex treatments. Prevention and curative procedures are still being researched and experimented.
- The key task is education for all to prevent and control the spread of Ebola infection.
- Adequate resources for the implementation of the requisites.
Sadly, public health as a field of specialization for doctors and nurses has become unattractive as there are no established career systems in our public health unlike in the 1970s and 1980s. The government’s present healthcare program mainly consists of reimbursing or paying the cost of medical care given to members of PhilHealth insurance system.
Rep. Leah Paquiz, in a privilege speech delivered early this year, made “A Call to Reclaim Public Health Care Services.” My call is for all politicians to seek the restoration of the primary healthcare into a system that provides sustainable, affordable, and available healthcare services; to formulate policies and laws that would reaffirm that health is a fundamental human right; and to eliminate the inequities that exist in the present primary healthcare program. I would also like to call on all health professional organizations, especially those of physicians and nurses, to mobilize their own groups and harness their potentials and capabilities in meeting the Ebola threat.
- Mangay-Maglacas is a member of Nurses’s Initiatives for Change.
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