SPECKS OF LIFE: DOH helpless?

SPECKS OF LIFE: FRED LUMBA

Even as the public is witnessing the long dragging, almost cinematic and heated controversy between the PAO’s Persida Acosta and DOH’s Sec, Francisco Duque on the scandalous Denvaxia issue, the country is besieged by a new disease outbreak – measles.

“Tigdas” in the local dialect, it is mostly affecting children, especially babies and toddlers up to 3 years of age although older children – even adults – are not exempted.

At last count, there were a reported 55 deaths with many hospitals nationwide overcrowded with young, sobbing and howling young patients.

Allegations by DOH officials that parents did not want to have their young children vaccinated because of the Denvaxia scare fed them by PAO does little justice to their mandate.

 Reports reaching us say that communication alerts and warnings from the WHO have been sent world-wide about the measles threat. It appears from our perspective that the DOH was caught flat-footed because the dissemination of appropriate information was slow in coming.

 Measles is not strange to us. I mean I had it as a young boy not yet in grade school. I have observed that every year, children get sick with it and very rare that it becomes an epidemic. Surely, the DOH must have a communication template every time something worse comes along.

 Ringing the alarm bells should be easy. After all, media outlets are always cooperative when it comes to information dissemination as scary as this.

 However, without condemning the DOH, health officials are all on the defensive as their sad, excruciating experience against the Denvaxia scandal has all but stymied Duque and his officialdom from proactively meeting the problem head-on.

 This is a sad commentary because it reflects just how inadequately prepared the DOH is in facing contingencies.

            Compared to the Ebola virus that has dogged African countries several years ago, measles is treatable and can be contained by an effective vaccination program.

Unfortunately, the DOH has been saddled by internal leadership and management conflicts that have crippled its operational efficiency such that even elementary procedures have been left hanging.

I fear that, unless DOH officials commit to plug this like a leak in the faucet, minor irritants can grow and develop to become major headaches.

Parents like to be assured that every time a needle is injected into their babies’ sensitive skin, they can sleep well into the night that tomorrow when they wake up, their baby would be wearing a cute smile.

 This is no longer the happy set-up.

Can we blame the parents from exhibiting such an aloof attitude towards DOH?

 Credibility – yes, credibility – has been lost. A great chunk of it, to be sure.

The DOH should expect more contingencies of this nature. Tourists coming into the country may, wittingly or not, have brought some virus that may have not been noticeably present while passing through the medical scanning apparatus at the airport. Oftentimes, viruses are said to favorably germinate in tropical countries under humid conditions.

Well, I think this is enough wake up call for the DOH to reform its communication approaches and institute effective strategies, including applying a sort of corporate social responsibility technique.

A Third World country like the Philippines is susceptible to become a dumping ground of un-desirable and un-healthy stuff like the two times that unwanted trash and garbage from abroad were scrupulously dumped into our shores. (Email your feedback to fredlumba@yahoo.com.) John 1:3: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!