Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to the government to ensure the availability, accessibility and affordability of COVID-19 testing kits as demand for it continues to grow amid the ongoing health crisis.
Go emphasized that COVID-19 testing is a requirement for persons taking essential travels, overseas Filipino workers, and employees. Due to this, he said that COVID-19 diagnostic testing has become a fundamental commodity and crucial component in the country’s recovery efforts.
“Dapat po natin tutukan ito at panatilihing abot-kaya ang testing sa bansa upang masiguro ang availability, affordability, at accessibility nito sa lahat ng mga Pilipino,” he said.
“Palagi rin nating unahin ang kapakanan at buhay ng mga mahihirap at pinaka-nangangailangan ng tulong. Huwag natin sila pabayaan dahil sila ang kailangang makabalik sa normal na pamumuhay upang maiangat ang kabuhayan nila,” he added.
Go signaled an alarm on the increasing disparity on the prices of COVID-19 testing, citing a recent report from the Department of Health which highlighted that a number of facilities impose additional fees to immediately facilitate the processing of the specimen and expedite the validation and release of results. A news report recently featured a person compelled to shell out almost P20,000 for a COVID-19 test whose result may be known within hours only.
“Sa panahon ng krisis, pantay dapat ang serbisyo lalo na pagdating sa kalusugan. Mahirap man o mayaman, dapat may access sila sa COVID-19 testing,” Go said, noting there have been a lot of people who opt to be tested in private facilities because of faster turnaround times. However, not everyone can afford this.
“Most of those who are highly vulnerable and are exposed to the highest levels of risk come from the poor and marginalized sectors of the society. They need the testing the most,” he added.
To address these concerns, the Senator asked the government to determine, formulate and implement a standard and equitable price range for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and test kits.
“This is undoubtedly a necessity. It is not a luxury. The government must step in and ensure the said price range is just, equitable and sensitive to all stakeholders,” he added.
Furthermore, Go urged the government to institute measures to ensure that all accredited COVID-19 laboratories observe transparency in the pricing of diagnostic testing.
“Kailangan din po nating siguruhin na fully informed ang mga Pilipino sa component costs ng medical services at procedures kaugnay sa COVID-19. Dapat alam nila kung para saan ang binabayaran nila at saan napupunta ang pera nila,” he added.
Go proposed for the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry to be directed in undertaking continuous monitoring and review of the prices of COVID-19 test kits and other basic medical items and supplies.
“Dapat may price control measures para hindi ito pagkakitaan ng iilang mapang-abusong negosyante. Buhay po ang nakataya dito,” suggested Go.
“I urge the government and the private sector to prioritize people’s lives over profits. Unahin natin ang serbisyo sa tao,” he emphasized.
Go mentioned that under Republic Act 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, President Rodrigo Duterte is authorized to take such steps to ensure adequate number of COVID-19 testing centers that provide available, affordable and accessible testing to the public.
Amid the pandemic, Go added that the government may also enforce measures to protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices and other pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of medicine and medical supplies.
“Protektahan po natin ang kapakanan ng mga Pilipino. Huwag po nating gamiting oportunidad ang pandemya para pagkakitaan ang ating kapwa,” Go said.
Earlier, Go commended the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for the swift response in lowering the COVID-19 testing cost. Go previously called upon the state health insurer to revisit its COVID-19 test case rate after being reportedly overpriced.
Go also highlighted that there is a constant need to reevaluate prices, especially on medical supplies, equipment and services given increasing demand for more public healthcare services.
“Ang kailangang gawin ng gobyerno ay palaging i-check kung affordable ba ang mga health services, equipment at kahit ang mga gamot para matulungan natin ang bawat Pilipino sa kanilang mga suliraning pangkalusugan,” Go said.
“Karapatan ng bawat Pilipino ang maayos na kalusugan at equal access o health care services. Ang trabaho namin ay para i-safeguard ang interes ng mga Pilipino, lalong lalo na sa usaping pangkalusugan,” he added.