A staff of the Visayas Primary Healthcare Services, Inc. talked about COVID-19 to 30 community health workers (CHWs) and leaders of people’s organizations in urban poor communities in the Cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-lapu last March 21, 2020. The forum was held in the Pilgrim Center in the Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu compound.
Before her lecture, Dr. Erlinda Posadas asked the audience to share about their understanding and questions regarding the disease and feelings regarding the pandemic.
With the aid of a video produced by the World Health Organization, Dr. Posadas then elaborated on the virus, its structure and country of origin, symptoms of the disease and its effect on the body, then on its diagnosis, prevention and cure.
She followed the video presentation with a powerpoint on the timeline of the disease since its discovery in Wuhan, China until the detection of the first local transmission in the Philippines in March and the present increase of the number of cases.
She then elaborated on the four essential measures to prevent and control the disease, namely, contact tracing, diagnostic capacity, medical management, and social distancing.
Discussions and clarifications followed her lecture. There were many questions from the audience on what they should do in order to prevent getting the disease.
Being residents in urban poor communities, the participants expressed their anxieties that social distancing is nearly impossible since they live in densely populated, impoverished communities, where families live in one or two-room dwellings and share bathrooms with neighbours. The lack of running water, access to nutritious food and dilapidated housing conditions in these poor communities makes advice such as handwashing, maintaining good nutrition and self-quarantine when one gets sick, also impossible.
There were also many questions whether our country’s health system can handle the epidemic with the rising number of cases who need to be hospitalized. They also expressed apprehensions regarding the effects of the community quarantine, particularly the loss of livelihood and jobs by those in the informal sector, including jeepney, tricycle, public motorcycle and bus drivers, vendors in the wet markets and streets, pier workers, workers who are on a “no work, no pay” basis, and thousands others.
The forum also united the CHWs and leaders of the people’s organizations with the calls of the Coalition for People’s Right to Health (CPRH), which include among others, the following, namely:
1. Release additional funds for the current COVID-19 epidemic.
2. Free health care services for all COVID-19-related cases.
3. Set-up public health and quarantine facilities nationwide, properly equipped to handle COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, from barangay to national level.
4. Hire and regularize health personnel with protection and benefits.
5. Increase health budget to at least 5% of the Gross Domestic Product.
6. Increase and direct funds to government hospitals.
7. Fight for a unified and responsive public health care system.
8. Fund public health not PhilHealth.
9. Free, quality, and comprehensive public health care for all.
10. Address root causes of disease and poor health status of Filipinos.