Philippine Senator Grace Poe says personal protective equipment for health workers battling Covid-19 is costing way too much. 'This is not the time to commit abuses and corruption,' she says. (Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP)
A Philippine lawmaker has questioned the Department of Health’s procurement of “overpriced” personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers taking care of Covid-19 patients. According to Senator Grace Poe, 1.4 billion pesos (US$28 million) or 1,800 pesos per set of protective equipment is “too much” considering that similar equipment is being sold for as little as 400 pesos each. “The government could have saved at least 800 million pesos had the Department of Health purchased less expensive gear but with the same quality,” said Poe in an interview. The lawmaker and former presidential candidate reminded fellow politicians about the wise and transparent use of public funds. “This is not the time to commit abuses and corruption … Every peso that we save during this period could be used for other government programs to help those who are most in need of financial assistance and food supplies every day,” she said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire defended the purchases, saying the department bought “the most complete” set of protective equipment. “We have eight types of PPE in one set. That’s why each set amounted to 1,800 pesos,” she said. Meanwhile, Filipinos are calling for transparency on how the government is spending a 200-billion-peso aid package. “Why is it that hospitals are still lacking masks and protective equipment? We still do not feel aid is coming from the government. I hope they deliver them as soon as possible because doctors are catching Covid-19,” said one physician who wished to remain anonymous. “I hope government-sponsored gear will reach us here in the provinces. We still do not have test kits and we are afraid that asymptomatic patients may already be infecting others,” Marites Dingaluan, a nurse in Samar, told UCA News. Meanwhile, Catholics have applauded Bishop Ruperto Santos and his clergy for donating their stipends for a feeding program and donation drives in Balanga Diocese. “With this difficult and uncertain economic situation, we priests in the diocese have decided to forego our monthly stipends for March and April, and in some cases from April to May, for the sake of the people, especially for all diocesan employees and personnel,” the prelate said in a statement. He said it was his diocese’s way of “showing solidarity and self-giving to let the people feel that the Church is always there for them.” As of March 31, the Philippines had recorded 2,084 Covid-19 cases with 88 deaths, according to government figures.
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