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BAGUIO CITY –Interior secretary Eduardo Año has found a ‘prima facie’ evidence of an irregularity on the exercise or authority of Abra governor Ma. Jocelyn Bernos’ lockdown of the private-run Petronillo V. Seares Sr. Memorial Hospital.
Año in sensing the irregularity, in his endorsement of the complaint against Gov. Bernos to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Police General Archie Gamboa, ordered him to act on the matter seeking a speedy resolution of the matter “for the unhampered operations of the hospitals are of utmost importance in addressing the threats of COVID-19.” A swift action against any determined erring local official should also be done to comply with the directives of the President and RA 11469, the interior secretary wrote Gamboa.
The hospital’s medical director, Dr. Voltaire Seares, earlier complained that hospital has been closed since June 5, 2020, as parts of Bangued, Abra where the hospital was located and COVID-19 positive patients resided were also placed on total lockdown on June 12. This after a confirmation of a patient, a nurse at the Seares Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Seares assured that contact tracing was done on employees of the hospital, as well as admitted patients and their watchers, turned out negative from the virus, save for some patients who were confined in the hospital last month. He also pointed out that the nurse already tested negative from the repeat swab test.
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The physician lamented how the hospital was pinpointed as the source of COVID-19 infection in the area, although contact tracing shows that some of the cases who tested positive also visited other establishments and hospitals and not Seares Memorial Hospital alone.
The hospital chief also alluded to a possibly politically-motivated decision to close hospital operations as the Seares Memorial Hospital is owned by the family of former Dolores, Abra Mayor Robert Victor Seares Jr., who fought Abra Goernor. Joy Bernos in the gubernatorial race in 2019.
Seares Jr. was appointed by President Duterte on June 10, 2020 as Administrator and CEO of the National Tobacco Administration (NTA).
Dr. Seares “also pointed out that despite the lockdown order, there was no mass testing being conducted to determine the extent of infection in the area…, Placing an area into total lockdown can delay and reduce transmission but it will not eradicate the virus. What is the purpose of total lockdown if there is no mass testing? How come other hospitals all over the world are operating in spite of having patients in their hospitals?” Seares raised.
Año in his communication to Gen. Gamboa cited a complaint letter from the Seares Memorial Hospital officials raising their grievance against the Gov. Bernos stemming from the latter’s alleged abuse of authority and discretion, and for will full violation of national directives when she imposed a lockdown upon the hospital.
The DILG cited that the imposition of a lockdown on the hospital goes against the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) wherein hospitals are considered essential regardless of the level of community quarantine imposed on a particular area.
Año further stressed that the lockdown was imposed without the Regional IATF concurrence. He stated that under existing policies at the time of the alleged imposition of the lockdown specifically requires that the authority to impose community quarantine, of any form, including lockdowns, is not absolute.
The secretary also pointed out that the lockdown was imposed and continues to be in effect despite the negative test results of suspected individuals and lockdown was also insisted on top of the recommendations of the Department of Health (DOH).
Gov. Bernos remained indisposed as of this writing.
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