No less than Senator Ping Lacson did accuse the DOH of not being completely honest in their daily situation report of the covid cases in the country.
Lacson issued the statement after the DOH started reporting the daily covid cases by category: fresh and late cases. Fresh is defined as test results were released in the last 3 days. Late is cases from the DOH’s testing backlog.
Was Lacson correct that the DOH was somewhat dishonest?
Well, let us take a listen as to what the UP NIH Laboratory administrator Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana in his latest FB post.
In fairness to Dr. Salvana, he did not explicitly say he was responding to Senator Lacson’s criticism but he addressed his reply to the critics in general.
Salvana said that the numbers (862 cases on May 31) are high and sugarcoating it is unnecessary. However, he credited the DOH for lifting the veil a little bit on what is going behind the scene.
“862 cases. Second highest ever. Again no sugarcoating that number. But the DOH lifted the veil a little bit on what’s going on. Some of the labs are not submitting their line lists on time. The line list is the summary of tests that labs do so that DOH can reconcile it with the hospital tallies.”
Salvana remarked that in May, unconfirmed positive cases of covid started to rise in May. The central laboratory at the UP NIH which he is the lab admin was overwhelmed. From 300 test per day, they were asked to do over 10K test per day.
If we look closely, the unconfirmed positives started to go up more in May. As a laboratory administrator myself (the Central Laboratory at the UP NIH is under my supervision), I can tell you that the COVID crisis has turned our world upside down. We have been asked to operate 24/7 and do the near-impossible in increasing testing capacity with a highly complex test and a highly infectious pathogen by a factor of 30 times (from 300 tests per day to over 10000 tests per day).
Salvana can’t help but marvel at the heroic act of the laboratory personnel whom he described have done superhuman things despite being pushed to their breaking points. Of course, Salvana acknowledge they also made mistakes and line list got lost in the mad scramble, Despite their efforts, the hidden frontliners, who are exposed to the virus, don’t get much credit.
The fact that it was done at all still boggles my mind, but our heroic laboratory personnel who have done superhuman things have been pushed to the breaking point. Line lists do get lost in the scramble. While many have rightly demanded more and more tests, the people behind that massive increase in testing are human and some of them have been infected and a lot are incredibly stressed out. These are our hidden frontliners, who are exposed to the virus but don’t get much credit.
At this point, Salvana belied insinuation there was a deliberate attempt from the part of the DOH to hide the true picture of the covid cases in the Philippines. He instead blamed bureaucracy for the backlogs because it was designed to meet a lower number of tests not the other way around. However, Salvana assured the public that the DOH is implementing fixes to address the issue like asking the labs to submit line list in more timely fashion.
I’m not making excuses for the labs or for DOH. We have a job to do and we should do it. But the public should also realize that there is no deliberate attempt to obfuscate. The system is a bureacratic one designed for a much lower number of tests and the demands have driven it to a near breaking point. The DOH is implementing fixes with COVIDKaya and asking the labs to submit line lists in a more timely fashion. I know its a mess right now but we are all trying to get it better. There may be a couple more days of messy data and I know there isn’t much patience left. The only way forward is to acknowledge the limitations of what we have, and improve performance. The Filipino people deserve the best we can give.
Source: Edsel Maurice Salvana