OCTA urges national gov't to act on PhilHealth-PH Red Cross debt issue

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — The OCTA Research Team urged the national government to act on solving the debt issue between Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

The researchers emphasized the PRC contributes around 30% of the total COVID-19 testing capacity.

The stoppage of PRC's COVID-19 testing operations resulted in the reduction of reported cases in some areas in the National Capital Region (NCR), Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas, the OCTA team found out.

The OCTA researchers added the non-processing of COVID-19 tests from NCR also does not reflect the "bigger picture" in the region, which accounts for 200-300 estimated missing cases in addition to the 736 total infections officially recorded by the Department of Health from Oct. 18-24. The number was lower than the 1,072 tallied cases in Metro Manila from Oct 11-17.

If the PRC testing data will be included, the team said the reproduction number will be at 0.72, from the 0.63 recorded last week. The reproduction number is a statistic used to measure the rate of virus transmission.

"Without the testing facilities provided by the PRC, our isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing programs are crippled because the LGUs do not know whether or not a person is infected with COVID-19 within the 24-48 hour time period required," the OCTA Research Team explained in its latest COVID-19 monitoring report.

The OCTA researchers reported that Quezon City, Manila, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Pasay, Paranaque, Mandaluyong, Muntinlupa, San Juan and Pateros are the cities in NCR affected by the temporary halt in PRC's testing. Other affected areas by the PRC COVID-19 testing suspension are Rizal (Antipolo, Cainta, Taytay), Cavite (Imus, Dasmarinas, General Trias, Bacoor), Batangas City, and Calamba, Laguna.

"Without the RT-PCR testing facilities provided by the PRC, our public health authorities and pandemic management teams are made blind because of less accurate information," the OCTA researchers noted.

The OCTA Research Team also stressed that resolving the PRC-PhilHealth impasse will provide accessible and reliable COVID-19 testing for medical frontliners and incoming Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

PRC chairperson Sen. Richard Gordon said on Monday the PhilHealth has yet to settle its debt with the PRC despite its commitment to pay on that date.

"I don't wanna deal with them anymore. They're crooks. They are liars. They are perfidious," Gordon said in a media briefing.

The state-run health insurer owes the humanitarian organization over ₱1 billion, where nearly ₱931 million is marked as overdue balance. The Red Cross said this has forced the organization to stop conducting coronavirus tests charged to the agency.

More than 6,000 OFWs are now stranded in quarantine facilities since the Red Cross stopped testing PhilHealth clients two weeks ago.