Garin sorry if visit to Caballo Island caused anxiety
Posted at 11/19/2014 8:50 PM | Updated as of 11/19/2014 8:50 PM
But still insists she, Catapang didn't break health protocolsMANILA - Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin has apologized to the public if her visit to Caballo Island where Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia are under quarantine has caused anxiety and confusion.
But Garin still stood by her decision not to wear protective gear during her visit to the island.
She insisted she and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang did not break health protocols when they visited the peacekeepers without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
"I would like to apologize if my going to Caballo created anxiety and confusion sa publiko. It was not my intention and there was no breach of protocol," Garin said.
She noted that there is a limited supply of PPEs so these should be used only when absolutely necessary.
She added that PPEs are very thick and uncomfortable, and must not be worn for more than 45 minutes.
"If I went there, wore a PPE, parang sinabi ko na ito ang dapat na ginagawa. We will not be able to correct the misinformation," she said.
Even the World Health Organization (WHO) said PPE supply is limited worldwide. "PPE is in limited supply across the world and should be used only where strictly necessary," it said.
The WHO also released guidelines on the use of PPE. It said the gear should only be used by a trained person and only when there is close contact with someone exhibiting Ebola symptoms.
It further asserted that one can only catch Ebola if he or she comes in direct contact with body fluids of an infected person.
AFP: UN DOCTORS HAD NO PPE TOO
The AFP, meanwhile, released pictures of the Filipino peacekeepers being tested for Ebola when they were still in Liberia.
In the pictures, the United Nations (UN) doctors were not wearing PPE.
AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said this proves that there was no need for Catapang and Garin to wear PPE when they went to Caballo Island.
"Kung mga kasamahan nila mismo ay hindi naman natatakot na lapitan yung mga peacekeepers natin, ganon din yung ipinakita nila chief of staff. Yung ating mga peacekeepers, okay lang, hindi naman sila nakakatakot lapitan, hindi naman sila nakakahawa," he said.
Nonetheless, Cabunoc said the AFP chief is willing to return to Caballo Island if needed and if the DOH orders it.
Meanwhile, the Philippine College of Physicians said it sees nothing wrong with the visit but insisted that Catapang and Garin should have worn PPE.
"Dapat nag-protective gear ka pa rin kasi you do not know maaaring ikaw yung datos na lalabas," said Dr. Tony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians.
A group of health workers also said Catapang and Garin should have, at the very least, worn face masks.
"Even the government, kahit ang UN naman, kahit naman yung ating DOH, hindi sila 100 percent sure na walang carrier sa kanila ng Ebola virus. That's why may quarantine," Dr. Beng Rivera, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy, said. -- Reports from Niña Corpuz and Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News