Surigao City council slammed for resolution seeking ban on PUIs from other areas

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 9 April) – The city council of Surigao City has drawn criticisms for passing a resolution urging the Department of Health not to accept persons under investigation for Covid-19 at the Caraga Regional Hospital.

The resolution said only PUIs from the city and Surigao del Norte should be admitted at the Surigao City-based hospital, one of only two government-run hospitals in Caraga Region that accept Covid-19 patients.

The resolution, unanimously approved on Tuesday, came after a PUI from Butuan City who was confined at the hospital, tested positive of Covid-19.

“Their action is ridiculously unreasonable,” Agusan del Norte Gov. Dale Corvera said in a text message Wednesday noon.

Corvera, who chairs the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19, said the crisis is not a localized issue.

“Our country is under a State of Public Health Emergency as declared by the President and all government agencies and local government units are mandated to render full assistance and cooperation including mobilization of all resources to respond  and undertake measures  to curtail and eliminate COVID-19,” Corvera, who also heads the Regional Development Council and One Shield Caraga, said.

“Prohibiting PUIs from other places other than Surigao del Norte from being admitted at Caraga Regional Hospital (CRH) is certainly not in accord with this mandate. Besides, CRH is not owned by Surigao City. It’s a regional hospital operated by the national government through DOH. We, from other provinces outside of Surigao del Norte are also Filipinos who have the same right with those in Surigao del Norte. I will bring this issue to the national government,” he stressed.

The governor added the Surigao City council should not be shortsighted and parochial.

“We should be united in this fight against Covid-19 for us to win, otherwise we will lose to this unseen enemy,” he said.

In an interview via Messenger, Councilor Joshua Geli said the resolution is not binding. “It is still up to DOH and Caraga Regional Hospital if they will adopt it or not based on their own guidelines, policies and procedures. In effect, it is recommendatory in nature.”

He said they just wanted to protect their constituents but can do nothing if the CRH accepts patients from other provinces.

He said the resolution should serve as a wakeup call to the need to upgrade other government hospitals in the region.

He pointed out that the CRH only has a 16-bed isolation facility.

The only other hospital in Caraga that accepts Covid-19 patients is the Adela Serra Ty Memorial Medical Center in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

Meanwhile, Councilor Jose Expeditus Bayana declined to comment but promised to give a copy of the resolution.

Caraga Region is comprised of five provinces–Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Dinagat Province. It has six cities such as Surigao, Butuan, Cabadbaran, Tandag, Bislig and Bayugan.

Philippine Independent Church Archbishop Rhee Timbang also criticized the resolution.

“In contrast to earlier announcement, the resolution has been refined and toned down to court public acceptance. But still its intent is shamelessly selfish and unethical given that we are in a difficult situation. The crisis demands us all to be compassionate, and to be concerned with the safety and well-being of others. It is unChristian and replete with arrogant exclusivism untypical of Surigaonons.

“It makes the City Council out of touch with reality. Since the resolution used CRH’s capability as the reason to limit admittance of patients from Surigao Norte and Dinagat Provinces only, the City Council should have addressed it to DOH and to Malacanang for them to improve the capability of CRH,” he said.

He said the resolution should have called on government to embark on mass testing prioritizing those with Covid-19 symptoms, the elderly and sick, medical and health workers at the frontlines, and communities with confirmed cases of the disease, instead of politicians, government officials and VIPs.

He said the budget to combat Covid-19 should be spent on testing centers, protective equipment for health workers, food for daily wage earners affected by the lockdowns, among other measures.

“By coming up with this resolution instead, the City Council becomes relevant in this time of crisis,” Timbang said.

Alexis Cabardo, an anchorman at DXDA in Agusan del Sur called the resolution “highly inappropriate.”

“I hope our councilmen in Surigao are still in the right frame of mind,” he said. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)