The Quezon City government appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure complete information on all positive coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) individuals to hasten its contact tracing efforts.
In a letter to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III dated Aug. 4, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the agency’s failure to provide complete information in some cases delays contact tracing by days and forces frontliners to spend valuable time looking for the needed information from other possible sources including social media.
“The lack of available information from the outset, specifically addresses and contact numbers, amounting to half of all cases reported, delays contact tracing by days,” she added.
Due to the lack of information, the lady Mayor said the city’s precious time and resources are spent in coordinating with disease reporting units (DRU), laboratories, and hospitals “to request information that should have been diligently filled up in the first place.”
Emphasizing her point, Belmonte said on Aug. 3, DOH reported 1,224 COVID-19 cases from Aug. 1 to 2 through its COVID KAYA information system.
Of these, 401 are already in the City Epidemiological Surveillance Unit (CESU) master file of confirmed cases or were already previously contacted and contact traced by CESU. Some 241 cases have addresses or contact numbers, or were reported by the QC Health Department.
However, 573 of those cases or 47% have no addresses or contact numbers, forcing the CESU to label them as ‘unknown’.
“This means that almost half of the reported cases tagged as QC in the KAYA info system for these days have no addresses and contact numbers, posing a major challenge in contact tracing,” said Belmonte, adding that it is possible these cases may not even be QC residents.
She also mentioned that the DOH failed to provide information about which hospitals or laboratories conducted the swab tests of 35 positive cases.
“With that, we appeal to your good office as Secretary of Health to set the vision and direction in improving data quality for rapid contact tracing,” Belmonte told Duque.
Belmonte said the DOH can provide financial or non-financial incentives for quality data and impose penalties or sanctions for incomplete information or the failure to report data.
“As we increase our investment in logistics and human resources for contact tracing, we hope that LGU efforts are matched by leadership and action from DOH in improving data quality,” she said.
CESU head Dr. Rolly Cruz backed Belmonte’s call to the DOH, saying it would be easier for the city’s contact tracers to perform their job with complete data on hand.
“The DOH would be of great assistance to our contact tracers if they will provide us with sufficient data. This way, we can cover more ground efficiently,” said Cruz.
The Quezon City government recently procured a fleet of 15 vehicles to add to the 15 already being used, and put together an army of 700 contact tracers to heed the national government’s call to ramp up contact tracing.