BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Benjamin Magalong debunked claims made by some quarters that the city government and some of its officials have been making money out of the test requirements and isolation facility services related to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Testing is a border requirement to ensure that all those coming into city are cleared of the virus. Travellers have the option to undertake their tests from their place of origin or here in the city through the private providers of the RT-PCR or Antigen tests. We are not connected to these providers and there is no way we are profiting from them,” he said.
Magalong also said the expanded testing program of the city government was one of the measures being undertaken to identify COVID-19 carriers so that they can be immediately isolated, and prevent transmission of the disease. This was also being done so that those who test positive could be given immediate medical attention.
He also disclosed that he had solicited for the testing kits being used for the expanded and contact tests from the national government and from the private sector, and the city has not spent a single centavo from its coffers for these tests.
City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo also belied misconceptions about the COVID-19 tests.
Galpo said some people have been peddling ideas that the COVID-19 tests were a farce, and that all illnesses, including simple coughs, were being declared as COVID-19.
She said declaring a person as COVID-19 positive was not being done on a whim, but based on the result of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test, the gold standard test for COVID-19 which is a product of scientific studies.
“Cough and colds are the most common symptom of COVID-19. In fact for most cases, these are the first signs of the disease and if one has them, there is a high index of suspicion because of the ongoing pandemic. But not all with cough had turned out COVID-19 positive, as there are a lot with cough who tested negative of the virus,” Galpo said.
She also quashed reported that COVID-19 cases were being used to obtain more claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
“(The city government) does not earn from these claims. In fact, the city’s total expenses incurred in caring for the isolated patients far exceeds the amount of claims it can collect from PhilHealth,” she asserted.
Galpo said the city allows the use of the facilities for free with provisions for three square meals, two snacks, limited supply of water, beddings and medicines for mild symptoms (if needed) for the duration of the isolation which is 14 days.
“The Philhealth claim amounts to P22,400 per patient which is barely enough if you add everything up for the 14-day board and lodging, utility services, manpower and other services. The city does not apply for claims for severe cases confined in hospitals and for patients on home isolation.” Galpo said.
She added that since there was no medicine for COVID-19 as yet, and care for these patients was limited to relieving their mild symptoms with common medicines, and boosting the immune system with enough rest and vitamin supplements.