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THE whole of Eastern and Western Visayas and selected provinces of Central Visayas have been identified as recipients of the US$2.2-million grant from the Bill and Melina (B&M) Gates Foundation for rabies prevention and control program.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE proposal to convert provincial and district hospitals into economic enterprise is another stumbling block to the passage of the Iloilo provincial government’s P1.3-billion budget for 2010.

Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico said they need more time to study the executive department’s proposal to turn the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan town and 5 district hospitals into income-generating entities.

Suplico said the proposal is included in the 2010 budget which he finds strange as they have yet to pass a provincial ordinance allowing the conversion of the hospitals into economic enterprises.

“It’s already in the 2010 budget which is a case of putting the cart before the horse. We don’t have an ordinance on economic enterprises yet. So we need to study this proposal carefully before we can approve the 2010 budget,” Suplico said.

Suplico said the provincial will have to operate on a reenacted budget until they have passed a new budget next year.

The vice governor said provincial Board Members Rodolfo Cabado, June Mondejar and Shalene Hidalgo, who are sympathetic to Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr., agreed to study further the proposed economic enterprise.

The opposition dominated Sangguniang Panlalawigan is wary that Tupas’ proposal will deprive poor patients of health services if hospitals charge fees on all services offered.

Suplico said provincial and district hospitals are supposed to help the poor, not earn profit from their operations.

Earlier, Board Member Arthur R. Defensor Jr., vice chair of the committee on appropriations, said they have no time left to pass the 2010 budget because the extra cash gift and allowances of volunteer health workers consumed their remaining session days.

In a statement, Provincial Administrator Manuel P. Mejorada said money-making is not the ultimate purpose of the plan to convert hospitals into economic enterprises.

“What the province hopes to achieve is empower our hospitals to become self-sustaining enterprises that can vastly improve their infrastructure and medical facilities to better serve the Ilonggo people. The concept of economic enterprises is enshrined in the Local Government Code of 1991. Local government unites are encouraged to embark on income generating activities to help raise revenues aside from taxes,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada said hospitals “will invest in private rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, well-trained hospital staff and efficient laboratories so that patients who can afford the services will patronize them.”

Such upgrading will require heavy investments, and the cost can be recovered through the long term with revenues generated from paying patients.

Poor patients will still enjoy affordable or free hospital services as the expected rise in income will help shoulder the cost for charity services.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A BEEF stew laced with a chemical used in bleaching laundry killed a woman and downed 14 others in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo Sunday evening.

Elizabeth Borsillo, 27, of Brgy. Balibagan Oeste, Santa Barbara died after eating pochero (beef stew with banana and other vegetables) prepared by another victim Nelida Mabal, 61 also of the said village.

According to Mayor Isabelo Maquino of Sta. Barbara, Mabal prepared the deadly stew to feed those who attended the wake of a relative of one of the victims.

Maquino said they received reports that Mabal seasoned the broth with oxalic acid, which is used in cleaning or bleaching laundry, after mistaking the chemical for salt.

Oxalic acid is used as a cleaning agent, especially for the removal of rust or removal of iron from minerals specimens. It is corrosive and toxic to humans.

Borsillo did not make it to the Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital (RTMDH) when she fainted minutes after eating the deadly dish.

The other victims aside from Borsillo and Mabal are Gaudiosa Sumalaay, 49, Justine Sinoro, 11, Jade Sinoro, 8, Edwin Martinez, Philip Tubola, 30, Nenita Tubolo, John Iron Tubola, Rowela Serilo, Baby Serilo, Felix Solinap, Candelaria Sinoro, Leticia Subong and Ponce Tubolo all of Brgy. Balibagan Oeste.

A total of 11 victims are confined at RTMDH while 3 are recuperating at the Iloilo Doctors Hospital.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

WESTERN Visayas recorded the second highest number of firecracker-related injuries in the 2009 New Year’s revelry, according to the Department of Health (DoH).

Dr. Victoria Concepcion Mansilya of DoH-6 said 86 cases of firecracker injuries were reported and treated at the Corazon Locsin Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City and Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao, Iloilo City when Ilonggos bid 2008 goodbye.

Mansilya said Western Visayas is second to the National Capital Region (NCR) which topped the number of firecracker injuries with 451 cases.

Some 59% of the blast cases in Western Visayas were treated without amputation while 13% of the injuries resulted in amputation of limbs. Twenty four cases or 28% suffered eye injuries due to firecracker blast.

Most of the victims are males 11-20 years old.

The top five firecrackers that caused the injuries were camara (12%); “triangulo” (10%); “piccolo” (9%); homemade firecrackers (23%); and unknown (17%).

Two cases of stray bullet injuries were reported in Arevalo and Molo districts in Iloilo City.

The DoH is intensifying its campaign against the use of firecrackers during Christmas and New Year as recent data show a downtrend in the number of injuries.

In 2008, the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center (NEC) recorded an all-time low incidence of firecracker-related injuries compared to the previous four years.

The total 733 firecracker-related injuries recorded from December 21, 2008 to January 5, 2009 were 28% lower compared to the previous four-year average, according to the NEC.

Mansilya said they encourage the use of alternative noise producers in meeting the New Year such as torotots or horns.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government is to be blamed for the purported debts of a politician’s foundation to the Dumangas District Hospital in Dumangas, Iloilo.

Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said the provincial government has been dilly-dallying on submitting a list of his constituents who charged their hospital bills to the Biron Foundation.

Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. earlier claimed that the foundation owes the Dumangas hospital more than P200,000 since July 2009.

Tupas said he ordered that all hospital fees charged against the foundation be stopped and told patients that they can avail of assistance from the provincial government’s social program funds.

Tupas is running for congressman in the 4th district against Biron in the 2010 elections.

Biron said they have been asking the provincial government for a verified list of hospital charges made in the foundation’s name “but they have been delaying the submission.”

“In other hospitals such as the Western Visayas Medical Center, they submit the list of our constituents who charged their hospital bills to the foundation so we can verify from our own list and process the payment. But in Dumangas, they have yet to submit any paper despite our requests,” Biron told RMN anchorman Novie Guazo Thursday evening.

Biron also slammed Tupas for telling his constituents to charge their bills to the capitol coffers when district and provincial hospitals are supposed to offer free services to the poor.

The congressman said Tupas is to be blamed for the bills incurred by poor patients when the latter implemented a provincial ordinance which levied fees on hospitals services.

Provincial Ordinance No. 2005-061 set standard fees on hospital services availed by patients who seek treatment in the 11 district and provincial hospitals in Iloilo. The ordinance requires a P200 “user’s fee” aside from charges on laboratory, dental, confinement services.

Biron cited the administration of then governor now House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. who offered free hospitalization to poor patients.

Defensor will run for Iloilo governor next year against one of Tupas’ sons, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul C. Tupas

“Instead of charging the bills to the capitol funds, why not remove the fees and offer free services to the people. Public hospitals should be free,” he added.

Biron said the Tupas administration should be thankful to congressmen who shoulder hospital bills “because we are contributing to the income of district hospitals.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

POOR patients in Iloilo province will be disadvantaged by the move of the provincial government to turn district hospitals into “economic enterprises,” according to House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr.

Rep. Defensor was reacting to the proposal of the Provincial Health Office, through the Hospital Operations and Management Service, and the Provincial Planning and Development Office to convert the 11 district hospitals into income generating entities.

The proposal is seen to cut the subsidies of district hospitals from the provincial government. Hospitals will have to support their operations by charging service fees on patients who are mostly indigents from the 42 towns and 1 component city of the province.

The proposal is pending with the committee of ways and means chaired by Board Member Arthur r. Defensor, son of Rep. Defensor.

Rep. Defensor said health care is a basic service that must be provided free or affordably by the government to the poor.

He surmised that turning district hospitals into “cash cows” of the provincial government will jack up fees for various hospitals services.

 “The district hospitals are for the poor. What will happen if they become economic enterprises instead of service-oriented?” said Defensor who is running for Iloilo governor.

Defensor said the provincial government will have to realign its priorities to address the health needs of its constituents.

“This government must be prepared to sacrifice somewhere. I would rather sacrifice government resources than let the poor pay,” he added.

Defensor said he will continue to give honorarium to volunteer workers in the province in recognition of their services to their constituents. “There is a possibility that we might even increase their honorarium.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Iloilo provincial government has appealed the decision of the Civil Service Commission reinstating Dr. George A. Acepcion as chief of the Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital (RTMDH).

In a motion for reconsideration submitted to the CSC central office December 1, 2009, Provincial Legal Office chief Salvador P. Cabaluna III asked the commission to deny Acepcion’s appeal to reinstate him at the RTMDH.

Cabaluna said Resolution No. 09-1439 erred and misappreciated some facts surrounding Acepcion’s assignment to the capitol clinic.

Cabaluna said Acepcion was never demoted or booted out from his official station and plantilla which is the Provincial Health Office (PHO).

Acepcion’s assignment to the PHO is due to Appropriation Ordinance No. 2006-07 which transferred the plantilla position of chiefs of hospitals I to the PHO.

“Pursuant to the said ordinance, appelee Tupas issued appointments to all current chiefs of hospitals to the rank of “Chief of Hospital I” under the Provincial Health Office, appellant (Acepcion) included. Thus, the official plantilla position of chiefs of hospitals is Chief of Hospital I and their place of assignment the Provincial Health Office. The station of the Chiefs of Hospital I are no longer the specific hospitals they were previously assigned to but the PHO,” the motion said.    

After Acepcion served a one-month suspension for an administrative case in 2007, Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. issued Office Order No. 216 (series of 2007) which assigned Acepcion to the capitol clinic which is also under the PHO.

“Appelant Acepcion, in effect, was neither transferred nor reassigned by virtue of the assailed Office Order No. 216, s. 2007. He still remained at his official station and plantilla which is the Hostile Operations and Management Service, (under the) PHO,” Cabaluna said.

Cabaluna said the decision of the CSC to nullify Acepcion’s retention at the capitol clinic is tantamount to nullifying the appropriation ordinance which empowered Tupas to manage hospitals.

The same managerial prerogative on hospitals and health facilities is also vested in the governor by virtue of the Local Government Code, Cabaluna said.

“It (CSC decision) will also result to a situation where the Honorable Commission would be directing the Governor to violate an existing valid and enforceable local ordinance,” he added.

The CSC pointed out in its November 6, 2009 resolution that Tupas showed bad faith by reassigning Acepcion as chief of hospital to the capitol clinic.

The commission said Acepcion was also made to report to another officer whose two salary grades lower than his plantilla.

“In the present case, the bad faith of Gov. Tupas is evident in that he singled out Acepcion by reassigning him to another office under the PHO while the other Chiefs of Hospital in Iloilo Province remained at their respective official stations,” said CSC Resolution No. 09-1439.

CSC rebuffs Tupas on hospital chief’s case

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Civil Service Commission (CSC) central office ordered the Iloilo provincial government to reinstate a former district hospital chief to his old post more than two years after he was “demoted.”

In CSC Resolution No. 09-1439 promulgated on November 6, 2009, the commission invalidated Office Order No. 216 (series of 2007) issued by Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. last October 4, 2007 which reassigned Dr. George A. Acepcion as chief of the Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital (RTMDH) in Cabatuan, Iloilo to the Capitol clinic.

Acepcion was initially transferred to the Capitol clinic, which is under the Office of the Governor on July 31, 2006 while being investigated for alleged disgraceful and immoral conduct in office.

A year after on July 30, 2007, Tupas rendered a decision finding Acepcion guilty of the charges and suspended him for one month.

Subsequently, Acepcion informed Tupas in a letter dated October 5, 2007 that he will resume his duties as RTMDH chief.

But Tupas issued on the same date Office Order No. 216 assigning Acepcion to the Hospital Operations and Management Service. He was also directed to render services at the Capitol clinic.

Tupas would later assign Acepcion as officer-in-charge of the medical/dental services on January 8, 2008. On July 14, 2008, the governor issued Office Order 174 relieving Acepcion as OIC of the clinic for Dr. Ma. Portia Manejero.

The same order also put Acepcion, who is a salary grade 24 employee, under the supervision of Manejero who is a salary grade 22 worker.

Acepcion questioned Office Order No. 216 (series of 2007) with the CSC Western Visayas office on the grounds that his reassignment violated election laws on the transfer of government workers.

Acepcion said he was moved from RTMDH to the Capitol clinic three months before the October 29, 2007 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

He cited the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Resolution No. 8264 which prohibited the transfer and details of public employees from September 29, 2007 to November 13, 2009.

Acepcion said his reassignment from a district hospital to the Capitol clinic is tantamount to constructive dismissal.

Tupas, through the Provincial Legal Office, nixed Acepcion’s argument saying his reassignment is pursuant to Appropriation Ordinance No. 2006-07 which transferred the items of all chiefs of hospital to the Provincial Health Office (PHO).

The transfer of items is in line with the principle of devolution of national powers and functions to the local government units.

But according to the CSC regional office’s fact-finding investigation, only 2 of the 11 hospital chiefs in Iloilo – Acepcion and Dr. Edgar Castaños – were reassigned to another office under the PHO.

Castaños was later returned to his original station, leaving Acepcion to work in the clinic under a supervisor with a lower salary grade.

The CSC resolution said Tupas showed bad faith in transferring Acepcion from a district hospital to the clinic.

“In the present case, the bad faith of Gov. Tupas is evident in that he singled out Acepcion by reassigning him to another office under the PHO while the other Chiefs of Hospital in Iloilo Province remained at their respective official stations,” said CSC Resolution No. 09-1439.

Worse, the CSC resolution said, Acepcion, who holds a Chief of Hospital position with Salary Grade 24, was made to report and was supervised by Dr. Manejero, a Medical Officer 5 with a lower Salary Grade 24.

“Hence, for being done indiscriminately and whimsically, the reassignment of Acepcion must be declared null and void,” it said.

The CSC said Tupas’ Office Order No. 216 (series of 2007) is not proper as it violated Section 261(h) of Batas Pambansa 881 (Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines) which prohibits the transfer of public employees during election season except when approved by the Comelec.

“Wherefore, the appeal of George A. Acepcion, Chief of Hospitals, Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital, Cabatuan, Iloilo is hereby granted. Accordingly, the Office Order No. 216, s. 2007 dated October 4, 2007 issued by Governor Niel D. Tupas Sr. reassigning him to the Provincial Health Office, Iloilo Provincial Capitol, effective October 5, 2007 is declared invalid and not in order. The Governor of the Province of Iloilo is hereby directed to immediately restore George A. Acepcion to his official station at the Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital,” the CSC resolution said.

The CSC regional office was directed to monitor the implementation of the resolution and submit a report to the CSC central office within 15 days from receipt of the resolution.

The resolution was signed by Acting CSC Chairman Cesar D. Buenaflor and Commissioner Mary Ann Z. Fernandez-Mendoza.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A MEASLES outbreak is occurring in Western Visayas, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

Dr. Renilyn Reyes, Regional Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) coordinator of DOH 6, said a total of 41 confirmed cases of measles were recorded in Region 6 as of November 10.

Reyes said this year’s measles cases are higher compared to 2008 with only 4 confirmed cases.

“From 2005 to 2007, we did not have measles cases in Region 6. However, in 2008, there were four laboratory confirmed cases of measles in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental. In 2008, there were no reported measles cases in Iloilo and the rest of Panay Island, but we are sad to note that this year, we have many recorded laboratory confirmed cases,” Reyes said.

DoH-6 data showed that Iloilo province has the most number of measles cases with 33 patients while Iloilo City has 15 cases.

Guimaras has 5 confirmed cases while the provinces of Antique, Capiz and Negros Occidental have one case each.

In Iloilo province, the town of Oton has 5 cases, Pavia 3 and Banate 2.

In Iloilo City, Jaro district has a total of 6 confirmed cases, LaPaz and Mandurriao with 3 cases each while Arevalo, Molo and City Proper have 1 case each.

Reyes said they consider Aklan a silent case as they have not received any suspected or confirmed measles case.

Measles or tipdas is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It affects mostly children although in Capiz a 37-year-old man contracted the infection.

Measles is rapidly transmitted through air or direct contact. It is considered to be a leading cause of childhood mortality in the world.

Measles symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes and a generalized rash (from head to toe).

Clinical diagnosis of measles requires a history of fever of at least three days together with at least one of the three C’s (cough, coryza, conjunctivitis) and Koplik’s spots.

Reyes said measles in itself is not dangerous but its victims are at risk of immunity suppression which could lead to complications including pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, deafness, ear infection (bulaho), diarrhea and dehydration,

LOW IMMUNIZATION

Reyes said low or lack of measles immunization coverage in Western Visayas may have been the cause of resurgence of measles in the region.

Reyes said the health department eyed to eliminate measles through massive vaccination which began in the 1980s.

While measles vaccination coverage in the country reached 91% of the target population, it was still below the 95% benchmark to terminate the infection.

“We believe that there has been an accumulation of susceptible persons which led to the resurgence of the infection,” Reyes said.

DoH-6 recommended massive vaccination for children as early as 6 months old. But a repeat vaccination should be given when the child reaches 9 months old to ensure the affectivity of the vaccine.

Another dose of measles vaccination for children 15-23 months old will be administered to halt virus transmission among susceptible children. Children under 2 years old are most vulnerable to measles complications.

Children under 5 years old who defaulted on their vaccination must also undergo the immunization process.

The health agency also recommended vitamin A supplementation to children 6 months to 71 months old.

Reyes said free measles vaccination is available in health centers all over the region “and our residents should avail of this program to protect their children.”

The DoH also encouraged the public to report any suspected measles cases in their locality for early detection and management.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A GRADE 6 elementary pupil from Brgy. Veterans Village, Iloilo City died of dengue fever the other night.

Charles Magallanes, 12, a pupil of A. Montes Elementary School, died after two days in hospital.

Magallanes’ family at first thought he was just suffering from a simple case of fever. But after almost a week of sporadic fever, they decided to bring him to the hospital.

Doctors later found out that Magallanes was suffering from dengue fever.

Magallanes showed signs of improvement after taking some medicines but he later deteriorated until he died.

The Magallanes family and Veterans Village officials said the boy may have contracted dengue from their barangay which abounds with stagnant water, the breeding place for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Based on latest data from the Department of Health, a total of 586 dengue cases, including 17 deaths were recorded in Iloilo from January to August 8, 2009.

Magallanes is the 18th dengue fatality in Iloilo City.

DoH to use info-tech to monitor drug prices

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health (DoH) will use the information highway to monitor prices of medicines sold in giant retail outlets.

Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH regional director in Western Visayas, said they are about to complete the orientation of pharmacies on the Electronic-Essential Drugs Price Monitoring System (e-EDPMS).

The e-EDPMS provides a system and procedure for the data collection on prices of selected essential drugs.

The monitoring system requires pharmacies to use e-EDPMS computer software that is linked to the Bureau of Foods and Drugs (BFAD), DoH Information Management Service and Centers for Health Development around the country.

Data generated by the e-EDPMS will be uploaded daily to the EDPMS website at http://umis.doh.gov.ph/edpms.

The e-EDPMS is part of the National Drug Policy-Pharmaceutical Management Unit (NDP-PMU 50) or Pharma 50.

The Pharma 50 unit was established to operationalize, manage and monitor the implementation of all DOH initiatives, programs and projects, whose paramount objective is to achieve the reduction of the price of drugs and medicines.

Valencia said e-EDPMS will help the DoH keep track of prices of medicines, particularly the five molecules that are subject of mandatory drug retail price (MDRP) set by the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) and its implementing rules and regulation.

Valencia said drug stores must follow the 50% slash in prices of medicines included in the MDRP list of the DoH.

The medicines covered by the MDRP include anti-hypertensives, anti-thrombotic, anti-diabetic/antihypoglycemic, and antibiotic/antibacterial.

“Big drug stores such as Mercury and Watsons have complied with the law already. Smaller pharmacies should talk with the main suppliers and manufacturers so they can get rebates for products they bought before the implementation of the law last August 15,” Valencia said.

Drugs stores with stocks bought before the implementation of the CML have until September 15 to fully comply with the law.

Valencia said consumers should report violators to the BFAD regional office with telephone number 3210204. He also advised consumers to keep receipts issued by drug stores as proof of their violations.

In Capiz, Jessie Contreras, Capiz Emmanuel Hospital (CEH) administrator, also urged consumers to keep receipts of their medicine purchases to help identify drugstores that don’t follow the CML.

Contreras, who is also the executive vice president of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines (PHAP), complaints against erring drugstores maybe lodged with his office at the CEH.

“It is better that there are complaints so that I could bring these to Department of Health Secretary Duque during our PHAP meeting in Manila on Aug. 24,” Contreras said.

Contreras said pharmacies of Capiz-based private hospitals are compliant with Executive Order 821 which mandates a 50% cut on the prices of five essential medicines. (With reports from PIA-Capiz)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TOTAL of 61 cases of Influenza A(H1N1) virus infection were recorded in Western Visayas from May 18 to August 1, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

The cases were confirmed by laboratory results from the Research Institute for

Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The DoH data said the patients ranged from a 9-month-old baby to a 54-year-old adult. The median age of the patients is 20 years old.

Most of the cases belonged to the 10 to 19 age group. A total of 33 patients, or 54%, are male.

Ninety three percent (94%) are Filipinos while the rest are Americans and Japanese.

A total of 30 cases (49%) have traveled outside the country while the remaining cases were close contacts of confirmed Influenza A H1N1 cases.

Of the patients who traveled to countries affected with A(H1N1) flu, 12 cases (40%)

came from United States, 5 cases (17%) from China, 4 cases (14%) from Japan, 3 cases (10%) from United Kingdom, 2 cases (7%) from Saudi Arabia while 4 patients came from Australia, Panama, Singapore and Sweden.

Majority of A(H1N1) cases in Western Visayas were recorded in Iloilo province (15) and Roxas City (13).

Bacolod City has 12 cases while Iloilo City has 11.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO committees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo recommended to the Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) in Pototan to take measures to protect the health of inmates.

The committees on appropriations chaired by Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico and health and sanitation chaired by Board Member Macario Napulan made the recommendations after probing the incidence of beriberi and other ailments of IRC inmates.

Macario said they ordered IRC Warden Soteo Gardoce to submit a report to the SP regarding food management at the jail.

The SP also directed the General Services Office to review the P14.6-million contract of the IRC food caterer which also operates the provincial capitol cafeteria.

The Provincial Health Office was also asked to draft and issue policy recommendations on the IRC’s sanitation program.

On top of this, the SP recommended that the IRC hire the services of a nutritionist who will keep tabs of the inmate’s food.

During the SP probe, the committees discovered the “unpalatable and innutritious” food served to inmates, contrary to the meal plan prepared by the IRC caterer.

During his ocular inspection of the jail, Napulan said several inmates suffer from severe nutritional deficiency.

Symptoms such as swollen stomachs, legs, faces and enlarged hearts suggest the critical nutrition problems of the inmates, Napulan said.

The IRC management had asked the SP to increase the food allowance of IRC inmates which is only P37 daily.

Beriberi or thiamine-deficiency is a degenerative disease of the nerves caused by a deficiency of the vitamin thiamine and marked by pain, inability to move and swelling.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ONE of the main authors of Republic Act No. 9502 or the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) in the House of Representatives will file amendments to strengthen the law.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said he will push for amendments to the law which aims to drive down prices of essential medicines, before the 14th Congress ends next year.

Biron said the amendments include the restoration of the automatic price reduction mechanism and the drug price regulatory board.

These two provisions were included in the House version of the CML but it was deleted during the bicameral conference due to the opposition of Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.

Roxas also crafted his own version of the law which only pushed for amendments to Republic Act 8263 (Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines) which will allow parallel importation of patented medicines.

The Roxas version does not contain provisions on the automatic price reduction of medicines and the drug price regulatory board. Instead, he gave the power to regulate the prices of essential drugs to the President upon the recommendation of the Department of Health (DoH) secretary.

Biron said the CML is weak because of the deletion of the provision on the mandatory drug price regulation which the House advocated.

“Senator Roxas’ opposition to the House version and the consequent deletion of these provisions basically emasculated and weakened the law,” he added.

Under Biron’s proposal, the law itself will set the minimum retail price of medicines which will be listed by the drug price regulatory board.

The medicines that will be subject to automatic price regulation will be based on the essential drugs list of the DoH.

Roxas has blamed the President and the DoH for dilly-dallying on the implementation of the “weakened” CML which he himself pushed for in Congress. 

During her State of the Nation Address, President Gloria Arroyo said she supported the House’s “tougher” version of the CML over the “meek version” of her critics.

Apparently, President Arroyo took a swipe at Roxas who once badmouthed her in a protest rally.

“To those who want to be president, this advice: If you really want something done, just do it, do it hard, do it well, don’t pussy-foot, don’t say bad words in public,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President also thanked Biron and other congressmen who pushed for the approval of the law.

Biron said he agrees with President Arroyo’s tirades against Roxas saying the senator only used the CML to advance his political ambitions next year.

Biron said President Arroyo’s statement recognizes that the CML is indeed impotent and needs more teeth.

Biron said he hopes the President will certify his amendatory bill as urgent to fast track its approval in Congress.  

The Ilonggo congressman has urged Roxas to stop the blame game and join the effort to amend the CML and make it more potent.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas this year continues to rise, exceeding last year’s cases, the Department of Health (DoH-6) said.

Latest data from the DoH said a total of 1,675 dengue cases were reported in the region since January to July 26, 2009, which is 160 cases higher than the 1,515 cases for the January to July 18 period.

Almost half of the dengue cases are children 1-10 years old.

The DoH said the latest number of cases this year is 26% higher than last year’s recorded cases.

The number of fatalities also increased to 26, mostly from the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo.

The total dengue cases in city and province of Iloilo totaled 927 with 16 deaths.

Negros Occidental has 533 cases with two fatalities; Capiz (93 cases, 1 death); Aklan (53 cases); Guimaras (40 cases, 1 death); Antique (9 cases).

Meanwhile, a total of 55 persons in Western Visayas were found positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus. Of the total cases, 51 are Filipinos including 29 male and 26 female. Most of the patients are 10-19 years old.

Twenty-nine patients contracted the virus after returning from trips abroad.

Negros Occidental and Capiz have 15 A(H1N1) flu cases while Iloilo City has 13 cases.

Bacolod City has 12 cases, Iloilo province 10 while Aklan and Antique have 1 case each.

Biron: Cheaper Meds Law can be amended

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THERE is still time to amend the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) and give the landmark legislation more force for the benefit of the people, according to one of its principal authors.

Rep. Ferjenel Biron (4th district, Iloilo) said the 10 remaining months of the 13th Congress is enough time to strengthen the CML.

Biron said the CML could have taken effect immediately if his proposed mandatory drug price mechanism and drug price control board were retained in the approved version of the law.

Biron said Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II should realize his fault in “castrating” the law resulting in its delayed implementation.

“If Senator Roxas realizes his fault, he should join us to amend the law. There is still a lot of time to amend the law,” Biron said.

The congressman blamed Roxas for the weak version of the law when the latter deleted the automatic drug price mechanism and maximum retail price (MRP) for essential drugs.

Roxas, instead, pushed for amendment to the Intellectual Property Law to pave the way for parallel importation of patented drugs.

Roxas also gave the power to regulate prices of medicines to President Gloria Arroyo upon recommendations of the Department of Health (DoH).

But Biron said less than 5% of drug formulations have patents, thus parallel importation will not bring down prices of essential medicines.

Biron also said that Roxas should not blame the President for dilly dallying on signing the list of MRP for 22 medicines submitted by the DoH.

“He gave that power to the President in the first place, why is he blaming her now?” he added.

Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico also urged Roxas to admit that he weakened the law.

“Sen. Roxas should be honest enough to accept the blame for a castrated law,” said Suplico, the original and sole author of the first Cheaper Medicines Bill in the 11th and 12th Congress.

Suplico said Roxas should be faulted for expensive medicines in the country.

“We should blame Mar for the continued exorbitant drug prices in the country today. Mar abolished the mandatory price regulation and the Drug Price Regulatory Board at the bicameral conference committee level. These (provisions) are the hearts of the bill. And Mar got what he wanted – he killed the law. He should not blame anyone now but himself,” he added.

The vice governor said Roxas should not use the issue to propel his presidential ambition in the 2010 elections.

“Mar, the killer of the Cheaper Medicines Act, should not be allowed to profit from the law’s death. He should have the decency not to use it as a Janus-faced prescription for his presidential ambition. He should be reminded that the original bill was for the benefit of the poor, while the castrated law is a haven for multinational pharmaceutical companies,” Suplico said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE number of dengue cases in Western Visayas is on the verge of epidemic proportion, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

In the latest update from the DoH-6 Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU), 1,225 dengue cases were monitored from January 1 to July 4, 2009.

The number of cases from January to July this year is 13% lower compared to last year’s admission of 1,415 cases. This year’s figures already reached the epidemic threshold for the entire region. Epidemic threshold refers to the minimum number of cases that need to be observed in order to assert that an epidemic is taking place.

Bacolod City reported the highest number of cases with 346 while Iloilo City has 319 cases.

A total of 21 deaths were reported with a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 1.7%. Iloilo City has the most number of deaths with 13 (CFR 4.08%).

Iloilo province reported 221 cases including 5 deaths, Negros Occidental (200 cases, 2 deaths), Capiz (79 cases, 1 death), Aklan (34 cases) Guimaras (21 cases) and Antique (5 cases).

Ages of dengue patients in the region ranged from less than 1 month to 75 years old. Majority of cases were male (52%). Some 50% of the cases are children from 0-9 years old.

The DoH recommended the intensified anti-dengue activities, particularly in schools and other areas with identified cases.

Other recommendations from the health department are:

–         activation of dengue fast lanes in all health facilities;

–         mobilization of the community in regular clean-up drives;

–         strengthening of the voluntary blood donation program;

–         strict compliance with dengue clinical treatment protocol;

and encouraging the use of insecticide imbedded nets as mosquito nets or window/door screen.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo will tackle the request of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. to declare a state of “imminent public health hazard” in the province because of the A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

Citing the governor’s letter, Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico said the declaration will empower the executive department to release P1.3 million for the purchase of protective medical gears.

The money will be taken from the 5% calamity fund of the 2009 budget.

Tupas cited in his letter request DBM-DILG Circular No. 2003-02 which allows the release of the calamity fund in preparation for disasters provided a state of imminent danger is first declared.

Suplico said the gears will be used by health workers in the province in responding to suspected A(H1N1) cases.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the executive will buy includes particulate respirator (N95), eye protection, gown and sterile gloves.

“It is apparent that the pandemic is not slowing down and there is a need to adopt measures to enhance the preparedness of our health professionals to handle the ‘swine flu’ in case it continues to spread in Iloilo,” Tupas said in his letter to the SP.

Suplico said he has reservations with Tupas’ request because Iloilo might be the first province to declare a state of imminent danger.

“There are only 22 confirmed cases in Iloilo with no fatality. Quezon City did not declare a state of imminent danger after an employee of the House of Representatives died of A(H1N1) flu,” Suplico said.

The governor said the equipment can be used for other epidemics that might recur such as SARS and Avian Flu.

Rep. Biron hits senator for Cheaper Meds Law scandal

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE main proponent of the Cheaper Medicines Law (CML) faulted a senator for the alleged bribery attempt by a multinational pharmaceutical company to hinder the implementation of the law.

Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, (4th district, Iloilo) said the alleged bribery could have been avoided if Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas followed the congressman’s version of a drug price mechanism in the CML.

Biron said he had warned that vesting the power to regulate drug prices in one entity is prone to pressures by multinational pharmaceutical companies.

Biron said his hunch was proven after the Senate claimed that a drug company offered to provide 5 million discount cards to the government to impede the enforcement of the law.

Drug manufacturer Pfizer Philippines allegedly offered 5 million “sulit cards” to the Department of Health (DoH) to “provide cheaper medicines to the public.”

The discount cards are valued at P100 million or more, depending on the usage done by its recipients, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The offer, which was allegedly rejected by the government, was made as President Gloria Arroyo was poised to set the maximum retail prices (MRP) for 22 most prescribed drugs in the country. The MRP is a provision of the CML (Republic Act 9502), which was passed last year.

Biron had proposed in his version of the CML an automatic mechanism or template that will set the MRP for medicines. 

He also proposed a drug price regulatory body that will either de-list or enlist essential drugs in the MRP list and follow the formula set by law.

“The automatic mechanism, which is actually a price formula, will ensure that the prices of essential medicines will go down, just like in India. If the mechanism is there, you don’t have to involve the DoH Secretary or the President in lowering the prices of medicines. You will just have to follow what’s written in the law,” Biron said.    

Biron also said the regulatory agency will be harder to bribe or pressure compared to a single agency (such as the DoH) or person (the health secretary or President).

“A collegial body would be difficult to hardball or grease compared to a single entity. All eyes will be on the board. I already warned about this when Roxas proposed that the DoH will recommend the MRP list to the President for approval,” he added. 

But Roxas, Senate committee on trade and industry, struck down Biron’s proposal.

Instead, Roxas proposed that the President, through the DoH, set the MRP of the most prescribed drugs in the country. The senator also pushed for parallel importation in a bid to lower drug prices.

Now, Roxas is blaming the DoH and President Arroyo for the alleged bribery and failure to implement the law.

But Biron said Roxas should blame himself, no one else.

“Why is Mar complaining now when he is the one who gave the power to set the prices of medicines to the President? He should be blaming himself because that’s his proposal. It is in the President already because he gave that power,” Biron said.

Biron also slammed Roxas for claiming the MRP as his brainchild.

“What MRP is he talking about? Mar Roxas for President? He knows nothing about the MRP because that is my idea. His only idea was parallel importation,” he added.

The US State Department earlier raised concerns on the parallel importation proviso of the law as it threatens to violate agreements on intellectual property rights which the Philippine government signed.

Biron said parallel importation of patented medicines will not lower drug prices because less than 2% of drug formulations are patented.

“The rest of the medicines can only be regulated through drug price control,” he said.

PFIZER DENIAL

In a statement, Pfizer said the allegations about the bribe try are both “unfounded and unhelpful.”

“Pfizer is committed to improving the health and well-being of Filipinos and believes that active and open dialogue with all key stakeholders on healthcare delivery is a crucial element. Last week’s meeting was undertaken in this spirit, and allegations to the contrary are both unfounded and unhelpful,” the statement from Pfizer read.

“Even prior to the passage of the Cheaper Medicines Act (R.A. 9502), our Sulit Patient Care Program over the past five years has helped 1.8 million Filipino patients live longer, healthier lives in partnership with the medical community,” Pfizer said.

“Pfizer fully supports the Government’s efforts to further improve healthcare delivery for the nation and seeks to achieve this via constructive dialogue,” the multinational pharmaceutical firm said.

Reiner Gloor, Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) executive director said the offer was made to the DoH, not to President Arroyo.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TWO private schools in Iloilo City suspended their classes due to suspected A(H1N1) flu cases.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DoH) in Western Visayas, said Iloilo Scholastic Academy (ISA) in LaPaz, Iloilo City suspended its classes for one week after several students suffered fever.

Alonsabe said they have yet to confirm if the students contracted Influenza A(H1N1) virus.

“That’s part of their precautionary measures in keeping with the joint guidelines of the DoH and the Department of Education,” Alonsabe said.

Some parents did not send their children to ISA for fear of contracting the virus

ISA will resume classes Monday even as school officials ordered the disinfection of the whole campus.

The University of San Agustin High School (USAHS) in Jaro district also suspended its classes although there was no confirmation that one of its students contracted Influenza A(H1N1) virus. The campus was also disinfected.

Assumption Iloilo suspended its classes last month until July 6 after one of its students tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

Latest report from DoH data said eight more persons contracted the virus, bringing the total positive cases of A(H1N1) flu in Western Visayas to 22.

The DoH said six of the new cases came from Iloilo City and two from Bacolod City.

Two new cases under observation (CUOs) were also recorded as of Monday. One CUO is from Iloilo City and the other from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 93, with 36 negative cases and 35 pending test results from the Research Institure for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 said 14 of the 22 confirmed A(H1N1) cases have recovered.

Aklan province, the gateway to Boracay Island, also recorded its first positive A(H1N1) flu case.

The patient is a 12-year-old Taiwanese girl who arrived in country via a China Airlines flight that landed at the Kalibo International Airport. She, together with her parents, were supposed to visit Boracay when airport authorities detected flu-like symptoms in the patient.

DoH officials took throat swab samples from the patient June 26 and sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for analysis. The result was released on July 1.

The city and province of Iloilo reported 9 positive A(H1N1) flu cases, Bacolod City and Negros Occidental (7), Capiz and Roxas City (5), and Kalibo (1).

by Tara Yap

EIGHT more persons tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus in Western Visayas, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

As of July 6, a total of 22 positive A(H1N1) flu cases were recorded in the region.

DoH-6 said six of the eight new cases came from Iloilo City and two from Bacolod City.

The health department said four of the patients traveled outside to countries with A(H1N1) flu cases. The remaining four patients are students.

DoH 6 said the four students are under home quarantine and medication.

Two new cases under observation (CUOs) were also recorded as of Monday. One CUO is from Iloilo City and the other from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 93, with 36 negative cases and 35 pending test results from the Research Institure for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 said 14 of the 22 confirmed A(H1N1) cases have recovered.

Meanwhile, health and local officials in Aklan are mum on the province’s first A(H1N1) flu case. 

The DoH-6 website bulletin confirmed the first positive case in Aklan province.

The patient is a 12-year-old Taiwanese who entered the country through a China Airlines flight that landed at the Kalibo International Airport.

Authorities at the airport noticed that she was exhibiting flu-like symptoms.  Instead of spending a vacation in the famous beach destination of Boracay, she underwent medical supervision until she tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

by Tara Yap

FOUR more persons tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus in Western Visayas as of July 3, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

This brings the total positive A(H1N1) flu cases in the region to 14.

The DoH-6 said the four new positive cases were in close contact with the high school student of Assumption Iloilo who earlier tested positive for the flu. 

Contract tracing performed by DOH 6 personnel confirmed that the two cases originated in Roxas City while the other two were found in the Catholic school in Iloilo City.

Classes were suspended in Assumption school June 23 when the female student, , who hails from Roxas City, tested positive for A(H1N1) flu. 

School officials immediately suspended classes upon suggestion of DoH 6 and the Iloilo City government. 

DOH 6 said that all four are now under home quarantine and medication. The patients no longer exhibit flu-like symptoms.

In addition, four new cases under observation (CUOs) were recorded as of Friday.  Two came from Bacolod City, one from Iloilo City and another one from Iloilo province.

This brings the total of CUOs in Western Visayas to 91 with 29 negative cases and 28 pending cases.

Meanwhile, classes will reopen in Assumption Iloilo this July 6 after the 10-day suspension.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A total of 16 persons in Western Visayas died of dengue fever since January, according to data from the Department of Health (DoH-6)

The DoH data said a total of 854 dengue cases were admitted in different Disease Reporting Units (DRUs) in Western Visayas January 1 to June 27, 2009. This is 22% lower compared to the same period last year with 1,048 cases.

The 16 deaths recorded in Western Visayas yielded a case fatality ratio (CFR) of 1.9%. CFR is the ratio of deaths within a designated population of people with a particular condition, over a certain period of time.  

The most number of deaths were from Iloilo City with 11 deaths or a CFR of 3.9%. Iloilo province has 4 fatalities while Capiz has 1 death.

Negros Occidental recorded the most number of confirmed cases with 304, Iloilo City (279), Iloilo province (207), Capiz (3), Guimaras (17), Aklan (10) and Antique (5).

The ages of dengue cases ranged from less than 1 month to 75 years old. Majority of cases were male (52%). Some 50% of the cases belonged to the 0-9 years age group.

In Iloilo City, majority of cases came from City proper district with clustering of cases noted in Brgy. Veterans Village.

Iloilo City proper recorded 91 confirmed cases including 3 deaths; Jaro-63 cases with 1 death; LaPaz-45 cases with no death; Molo-45 cases with 4 deaths; Mandurriao-21 cases with 2 fatalities; and Arevalo-16 cases including 1 death.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas will meet various sectors in the metropolis to discuss the conduct of a comprehensive information advocacy against dengue fever.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN elementary school in Bacolod City suspended classes Tuesday after 122 Grade 3 pupils caught fever.

The St. John’s Institute in Hilado Extension, Bacolod City suspended Grade 3 classes until Wednesday after several pupils started getting sick last Friday.

Majority of the sick students failed to come to school on Monday.

The Bacolod City Health Office has advised the school to monitor the conditions of the pupils, who may have been infected with influenza A (H1N1) virus. The school has also disinfected the campus.

Dr. Salome Biñas, city health officer, said they have yet to determine if any of the pupils had history of travel to a country with confirmed A (H1N1) cases

There are four confirmed A(H1N1) flu cases in Bacolod City.

Meanwhile, the Iloilo City government will buy flu vaccines to be distributed to City Hall workers amid the rising cases of Influenza A(H1N1) in the country.

Mayor Jerry Treñas said they will purchase the vaccines once the stocks arrive from Argentina this month.

The vaccines will be given free to city hall employees. The remaining stocks will be distributed to barangay officials and other local officials.

The city government was supposed to bid out the vaccines but supply was running short after the World Health Organization declared a A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

“When the stocks arrive, we will decide how much we will purchase. We will give the vaccines to workers who want to get a shot,” Treñas said.

A seaman from Jaro district was the first confirmed A(H1N1) case in Iloilo City.

A student of Assumption-Iloilo, who is a native of Roxas City, also tested positive for the flu.

The third confirmed case is an overseas Filipino worker in Iloilo who came from Saudi Arabia.

The Department of Health said the total confirmed A(H1N1) flu cases in Western Visayas remain at 10 with 83 cases under observation. (With reports from abs-cbnnews.com)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A 9-YEAR-OLD girl was infected with Influenza A(H1N1) virus after close contact with an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Capiz  who also contracted the flu.

The girl is the 10th positive A(H1N1) case recorded in Western Visayas as of June 29, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

The DoH-6 said in its official website that the girl had close contact with the 38-year-old female OFW who earlier tested positive for the virus.

The patient is now under medication while her close family contacts have been told to monitor themselves for flu-like symptoms.

Eight positive A(H1N1) cases have been discharged from the hospital while the two remaining cases in Capiz are still under medication.

Two new cases under observation (CUOs) were reported to DoH-6, bringing to 83 the total number of CUOs reported from May 18 to June 29, 2009.

Fifty six CUOs have pending laboratory results while seventeen have negative results.

Iloilo has the highest number of CUOs with 41, Negros Occidental (25), Capiz (11), Aklan (4) and Antique (2).

Bacolod City recorded the highest number of positive A(H1N1) case with 4, Capiz (3), while Iloilo City, Oton in Iloilo and Talisay City in Negros Occidental have 1 case each.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE number of persons in Western Visayas under observation for possible Influenza A(H1N1) virus infection continues to mount, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6).

Data from the DoH-6 as of Thursday said 7 more persons were considered cases under observation (CUO) for showing flu-like symptoms. This brings to 71 the total number of CUOs since May 18 to June 25, 2009.

Of the total CUOs, 8 persons tested positive for influenza A (H1N1) while 17 were found negative.

The laboratory results of the remaining 46 CUOs are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

The 8 confirmed cases, are from Bacolod City (4), Talisay City in Negros Occidental (1), Iloilo City (1), and Capiz (2).

Five A(H1N1) patients have been released from the hospital while the remaining 3 are still under medication.

Based on DoH guidelines, a person is considered a CUO if they fall under the following criteria:

–         Anyone with influenza-like illness (ILI) with history of travel to a country with laboratory-confirmed case/s of A (H1N1) in the past 10 days;

–         Anyone with ILI who has close contact with a confirmed A (H1N1) case within 10 days of onset of symptoms.

A CUO or suspect case of A(H1N1) flu will be subject for laboratory testing by the RITM.

Patients who do not meet the criteria are advised to consult their doctor for assessment of other illnesses.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office (PRO-6) will support the DoH should it require police assistance in conducting quarantine activities.

In a statement, C/Supt. Isagani Cuevas, PRO-6 director, said additional police officers may be detailed to airports and seaports if the DoH seeks their help.

“We already have personnel assigned at airports and seaports for this purpose. And we can still add more officers if necessary,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said he reminded police officers to take extra precautions to avoid contracting the flu.

“We also remind our police personnel to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs) once they are confined in hospitals. They have to inform their chiefs of police immediately upon confinement. The PRO-6 Regional Health Service must also be informed to assist and make follow-up of their status,” Cuevas said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A FOREIGNER based in Negros Occidental is the latest A(H1N1) flu patient, according to the Department of Health (DoH-6) regional office.

DoH-6’s official website said the latest A(H1N1) flu patient is a 1-year-old Japanese male who arrived in Talisay, Negros Occidental.

The patient arrived in the country June 11, 2009 and manifested flu-like systems June 13.

He was admitted in a private hospital in Bacolod City June 16. Swab samples of patient were taken June 17 and immediately sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

DoH-6 received yesterday the report from RITM confirming that the patient is positive for A(H1N1) virus.

The Talisay City Health Office has started tracing persons who had close contact with the Japanese national.

Western Visayas now has 8 confirmed Influenza A (H1N1) cases, including the latest patient from Negros Occidental. 

Five patients have been discharged while three are still under medication.

Personnel from the DoH-6 and Iloilo City Health Office (CHO) also mounted contact tracing in Assumption Iloilo where one of its high school student tested positive for A(H1N1) flu.

The DoH learned that the 14-year-old student, who is a native of Roxas City, stayed at the Assumption dormitory along with 9 other students.

The DoH-6 has taken throat swab samples of the 9 Assumption students for testing in RITM.

Assumption school officials have suspended classes until July 6 in keeping with the guidelines issued by the DoH.

The DoH recommended that Assumption students, faculty and staff stay at home and monitor themselves for signs and symptoms of influenza-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and/or sore throat.

They are advised to seek consultation when the said mentioned signs and symptoms are observed so they can be assessed properly.

They are also advised to constantly observe proper hygienic practices such as hand washing with soap and water and cough and sneezing etiquette.

As of yesterday, a total of 64 persons are under observation for flu-like symptoms.

Among the new cases under observation (CUOs) are the classmates of the Assumption student. 

The DoH data also said that 17 CUOs were negative for A (H1N1) while 39 patients are still waiting for laboratory results from the RITM.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap

 

A CATHOLIC elementary and high school in Iloilo City suspended its classes after one of its students tested positive for Influenza A(H1N1) virus.

Assumption School along General Luna Street sent home its students past 1pm Tuesday after the Department of Health (DoH-6) confirmed that one of its students contracted A(H1N1) flu.

The female student, the seventh confirmed A(H1N1) patient in Western Visayas, is a native of Roxas City.

She complained of fever when she went home to Roxas City over the weekend. She was found positive for the flu based on her swab test from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, DoH-6 regional epidemiologist, said in a press conference with Mayor Jerry Treñas that the patient went home to Roxas City. She is presently confined in a private hospital.

Alonsabe said they are conducting contact tracing of persons who got close to the patient. They are also verifying whether the patient traveled abroad.

The DoH suggested to Sister Fidelis Estrada, Assumption School principal, to immediately suspend their classes for 10 days.

Alonsabe said the suspension will immediately allow health authorities to conduct contact tracing and for the school to help monitor the health status of their students.

Assumption administration officials met after the press conference to discuss DoH’s suggestion.

Parents who heard the news flocked the Assumption campus to fetch their children. Before they were released, school officials held a briefing with the pupils and students regarding the positive A(H1N1) case.

Iloilo City Councilor Joe Espinosa III was one of the concerned parents who rushed to Assumption Iloilo after hearing the news.

Espinosa, who has three children enrolled in the Catholic school, handed out masks to other parents and carried a rubbing alcohol as disinfectant.

Asked if he is alarmed, Espinosa was quick to say that he is not. “DOH has assured that this is a milder form of virus.”

The councilor urged the public to take extra precautionary measures such as proper hand washing and cough and sneezing etiquette to avoid catching the flu.

Other parents were concerned why their children were gathered inside the air-conditioned room for the briefing which could increase their risk of exposure to the virus.

The influx of parents and nannies who rushed to the Catholic school caused a major traffic along Gen. Luna Street from 11am until 1:30pm.

Around noontime, the school sent out letters advising parents that classes in elementary and high school levels were suspended starting Tuesday and will resume July 6.

The letter also advised the parents to let their children stay at home for three days as a precautionary measure.

Assumption school is located across Iloilo Central Elementary School which has more than 2,000 students.

Treñas said there is no need to panic because DoH has medicines for the flu which is considered a mild strain.

Treñas urged the public to observe proper hygienic practices to prevent the virus from spreading.

Western Visayas has now 50 cases under observation and 7 positive cases. The referral hospitals are the Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City, Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City, other government hospitals in the region and all other private hospitals.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THREE of the six patients who contracted Influenza A(H1N1) virus have been discharged from their respective hospitals.

Dr. Jessie Glen Alonsabe, regional epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DoH-6), said the three remaining A(H1N1) patients are about to finish their medication.

Alonsabe said the patients only contracted mild cases of A(H1N1) flu.

The latest positive A(H1N1) case in Western Visayas was a 20-year-old American missionary in Bacolod City. The missionary arrived June 9 and showed flu-like symptoms June 14 but was discharged from the hospital after showing signs of improvement.

Since May 18, DoH-6 has recorded 50 cases under observation (CUOs). A total of 17 patients found negative for the flu while 6 tested positive for the virus.

The test results of the remaining patients are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Alonsabe advised the public to check if their visitors traveled abroad, particularly from areas with confirmed A(H1N1) cases.

He also urged the public to maintain cleanliness of surroundings and observe proper personal hygiene.

The DoH central office earlier said 80% of the 428 A(H1N1) cases, or 339 patients, have recovered from the flu.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE third and fourth quarters of 2009 are critical periods for the tourism sector in Western Visayas amid the Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic.

Edwin Trompeta, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas, said the gains of the tourism sector in the first two quarters might be affected because of the pandemic.

“We noted growth in tourist arrivals in the region, particularly Boracay Island, in the first and second quarters of this year. We see the third and fourth quarters as very critical because of the flu,” Trompeta said.

Trompeta said traditional tourism markets such as the US and Europe are also being cautious because of the A(H1N1) flu.

Boracay was the second top tourist destination in the country with 158,030 arrivals from January to March 2009.

The island resort also drew the second highest number of foreign tourists of 63,903.

Cebu was the top tourist destination in the country according to a DoT report for the first four months of the year.

Overall, the volume of domestic tourists visiting key destinations grew faster at 13% while foreign arrivals recorded a 4% increase in the first quarter.

Trompeta said that among the island-resorts, Boracay remains the top tourist drawer with tourist arrivals growing by an average of 6% annually for the past decade.

Boracay boosted its room capacity with the opening of the Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort and Spa, a high-end 217-room resort on the island.

“We are hoping that the pandemic will slow down and have no effect on the tourism sector which continues to make positive ratings despite the global economic recession,” Trompeta said.

The DoH has been closely watching the situation in Boracay in coordination with the local government unit of Aklan and Malay town.

The DoH and DoT recently conducted an orientation on A(H1N1) flu to help businesses and other stakeholders respond to the pandemic.

Latest data from the Department of Health said 14 cases under observation for A(H1N1) flu were recorded in Western Visayas.

The total confirmed cases jumped to 6 patients after an 20-year-old American missionary in Bacolod City tested positive for the A(H1N1) virus.

The missionary arrived June 9 and showed flu-like symptoms June 14.

The patient has been discharged from the hospital after showing signs of improvement.

Since May 18, DoH-6 has recorded 43 cases under observation (CUOs). A total of 14 patients found negative for the flu while 6 tested positive for the virus.

The test results of the remaining 23 patients are still pending with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

Iloilo recorded the highest number of CUOs with 24, Negros Occidental (15), Aklan (2) and Capiz (2).

Of the total CUOs recorded, 35 are Filipinos and 8 foreigners including 21 males and 22 females. The age of the CUOs ranges from 2 to 89 years old, the DoH said.

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