Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for the creation of a Center for Disease Prevention and Control, which will be at the forefront of government response during health crises similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The current COVID-19 situation emphasizes the risks and highlights the need to improve preparedness, surveillance and response at local, national and international levels against future pandemics,” Gatchalian said in the explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 825 or the Disease Prevention and Control Act, which he filed.
“To avoid heavily burdening our public health system that may signify serious repercussions, including countless morbidities and mortalities, trade disruptions and negative effect on the economy, our proposed measure emphasizes on the importance of having a strong public health capacity in communities across the country before any public health emergency occurs,” Gatchalian added.
Under the proposed measure, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the Department of Health’s (DOH) Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, Epidemiology Bureau, Health Emergency Management Bureau, Bureau of Quarantine, and Health Promotion and Communication Service will be transferred under the Center, which shall serve as the principal agency on developing and applying communicable disease prevention and control initiatives. The Center will be an attached agency of the DOH.
Aside from managing and controlling the spread of infectious diseases in the country, the Center’s other functions will cover research, health promotion programs, and the conduct of clinical trials, among others. The Center will also assess and support the capabilities of local government units (LGUs) to prevent the emergence and transmission of communicable diseases.
Gatchalian’s proposed measure also seeks the creation of a National Health Strategy for Disease Prevention, which will consider challenges in areas such as the medical capacity and capability of hospitals and other health care facilities, and enhancement of information and technology in public health, among others.
The national health strategy will institutionalize a functional integrated disease surveillance and response system to include, among others, capacity building for early detection of epidemics, strengthening local capacity for surveillance and response, and promoting the efficient and effective management of surveillance data.
The proposed measure also seeks the creation of a medical reserve corps composed of volunteer health professionals that may be called into duty if needed during public health emergencies.