Doctor says Sara’s EO requiring RT-PCR tests before hospital admission is ‘over-reaching’

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews / 26 September) — A physician practicing at the Brokenshire Hospital on Saturday urged the city government to “trust the hospitals” when it comes to the admission of patients instead of crafting an “over-reaching” Executive Order (EO) requiring them to subject incoming patients to the RT-PCR test for COVID-19.

In a statement, Dr. Jack Estuart, Medical Director of Brokenshire Hospital from 1994 to 2010, said hospitals have COVID-19 policies in place that are “evolving based on new understanding and the developing science and evidence.”

“They can have more leeway in adjusting their operations as they work within their unique situations. An EO from the Mayor is kind of over reach. We have to follow a dictate which might leave us with limited elbow room to adjust,” he said.

The statement came a day after Mayor Sara Duterte issued EO No. 53 “requiring mandatory COVID-19 RT-PCR testing  or patients referred to hospitals in Davao City.”

Under the EO, all patients referred to hospitals in Davao City besides the Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) are now required to submit the results of their reverse transmission-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) taken within 24 to 48 hours “to protect healthcare workers from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19.”

All Davao City hospitals are also encouraged to make it a policy to request the RT-PCR results for walk-in patients and their companions.

The EO has become a contentious issue among residents, with the City Government of Davao Facebook page getting inundated with comments criticizing the new requirement.

Many of the comments have centered on the cost of the RT-PCR test which the patient presumably has to shoulder since the EO makes no mention of who will pay for it. A test costs an average of P6,000 each.

Some commenters said the EO could result in more serious health issues as many of those who cannot afford to get the test would simply choose not to seek medical help in hospitals.

A press release from the City Information Office (CIO) said the mayor issued the EO “after Davao City recorded cases of COVID-19-positive patients who had medical check-ups for other illnesses in hospitals not assigned to receive coronavirus cases.”

The press release quoted the mayor as saying, “If we allow this to happen in our hospitals, our goal of protecting and allowing non-COVID hospitals to continue with their non-COVID work will not happen.”

The city government has only assigned SPMC as the receiving medical facility for all coronavirus-related cases to protect healthcare workers and patients in other hospitals.

Estuart, however, said the data on how many healthcare-associated or workplace-associated infections have been documented are not available to the public.

“She has information or data which we are not privileged to access, so we can not completely see and understand the rationale for the EO,” he said.

“The hospitals can by themselves deal with the many situations arising without the need for an over reaching Mayor’s EO… Trust the hospitals that they know what they are doing,” he said.

“The hospitals have the competence and the mechanisms to make policies based on their unique situations and based on current DoH (Department of Health), IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases), and other regulatory guidelines plus the current evidence,” he added.  (Jon Joaquin for MindaNews)