PH may send health workers to West Africa
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said it was seriously considering sending Filipino medical professionals to West Africa to help battle the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
At a press conference during the National Ebola Virus Disease Summit on Friday, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the government will arrive at a decision on the matter within the week as the deadly virus continues to ravage three countries in West Africa. Cases of the disease have also been reported in Spain and the United States.
“We are discussing this very intensively and thoroughly because there are implications on both sides,” admitted Ona.
On Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon appealed for “at least a 20-fold surge in assistance,” including the dispatch of trained medical personnel volunteers.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has also appealed for augmentation in medical personnel even as he noted that the international community was not responding fast enough.
Ona yesterday said the Philippines can assist in nursing care but could also send epidemiologists, laboratory staff and public health experts.
Should Malacañang decide to send Filipino volunteer health workers, Ona said the number will depend on the needs in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and the assurance of safety of the volunteers.
“This would have to be purely voluntary and the safety of the health workers must be of primordial importance… that has to be discussed. [But] our position is that we are going to help, we are just studying it very carefully,” Ona told reporters.
He stressed that the Philippines cannot just turn a blind eye on the outbreak, which has killed 3,865 people so far. As of Oct. 8, a total of 8,033 confirmed Ebola cases have been reported from the three West African countries, including those from Senegal, Nigeria and the United States.
“We cannot just say we leave them as they are. Second, any spread of a disease is a global responsibility,” Ona said.
In his speech at the summit, former Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said that from a theoretical point of view, the Philippines can join the global response for human resources.
“The Philippines is actually in a very good position to provide those types of human resources, particularly because of our nurses,” he said.
Recent data from the World Health Organization showed that the fatality of Ebola-infected healthcare workers was 57 percent. Many foreign health workers caring for Ebola patients have fallen ill and whisked away for treatment in the United States.
Only Cuba has so far answered the global call, sending 165 health workers to hard-hit Sierra Leone.