Pres. Duterte says 361 PH COVID-19 patients to take part in WHO solidarity trial

At least 361 COVID-19 patients from 26 hospitals in the Philippines are participating in the World Health Organization's (WHO) solidarity trial aimed at finding a treatment for the disease.

President Rodrigo Duterte made the disclosure in his report to Congress on Monday as mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. 

The government has allotted Php29.99 million for the one-year project, which will involve 500 patients in the country.

The clinical trials, which are being implemented by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health, seek to determine the safety and effectiveness of possible therapies in treating COVID-19. 

These include standard care, remdesivir, malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, HIV drugs lopinavir/ritonavir, and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon. In the same report, Duterte said the government has already hired 4,045 healthcare workers for COVID-19 response.

The government had approved 8,553 slots for emergency hiring in 286 health facilities such as hospitals, government-run quarantine facilities, temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, diagnostic facilities, and primary health care facilities.

“The DOH [Department of Health] continues to temporarily redeploy nurses to DOH and LGU [local government unit] hospitals handling COVID-19 cases, as well as for contact tracing and specimen collection/swabbing activities,” Duterte said.

“Public health associates have also been assigned to regional, provincial, and municipal health units for contact tracing and surveillance activities.”

Last week, the President said the DOH identified the following “bottlenecks” in the hiring of healthcare workers:

  • low uptake/no takers for some positions (e.g. physicians)
  • some applicants have private practice that they cannot compromise
  • some applicants have backed out due to various reasons (distance of the facility from their residence, lack of reliable means of transportation, lack of halfway house/accommodation, concerns from family on possible COVID-19 transmission in the household, poor perception on biosafety or lack of confidence in infection control protocols)
  • delays in screening due to the requirement of some RT-PCR testing facilities for its applicants (preference for those with experience working in the health sector)