ALABEL, Sarangani, Sept.19- Sarangani recently institutionalized a unified contact tracing system that Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon initiated as a proactive approach to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The provincial government already capacitated the tracing teams on the new system. Each Sarangani town has organized eight teams composed of a representative from the Philippine National Police (PNP), a nurse, encoder, Barangay Health Emergency Response Team, and tanod.
In the team, the PNP leads in the drafting of plan for the case investigation.
During the orientation on September 4, Governor Solon underscored the importance of an effective tracing system. Its absence, he said, would blind the government on what areas to declare critical as basis to implement lockdowns.
It is needless to impose lockdown in the whole municipality, the governor noted, when only a portion of it is affected. Solon explained the importance of an economy to still function despite measures implemented to contain the spread of COVID.
Dr. Arvin Alejandro, provincial health officer, said "each municipality already has an existing contract tracing system ever since but it was not institutionalized as a unified province-wide contact tracing."
"We just like to put all information into one system that would be working efficiently and is appropriate for us," he said.
Soon, according to Alejandro, a system database that will include all contacts that have been traced from the municipal and barangay level will be established as an output of the new system.
The health officer explained "this is a method of putting into an ODK (Open Data Kit) system all confirmed positive" of the coronavirus.
ODK is an open-source tool that allows data collection using Android mobile devices and data submission to an online server. It works even without an internet connection or mobile carrier service at the time of data collection.
Currently, Alejandro said, they are already encoding into the system all influenza-like illnesses in each municipality and all the contacts traced of either suspect, probable or confirmed.
"It is very important for us to contain the disease immediately even when a suspect has been identified. Because if the suspect that has been identified turned into a positive, just in case, then it will be too late for us to do the contact tracing after confirmation," Alejandro said.
At the provincial level, the contact tracing support team is comprised of the "PNP provincial office, Provincial Security Guard, IT personnel of the PHO, provincial surveillance officer, technical persons, and representative from the PDRRMO."
According to Lt. Col. Joffel Remudaro of the Philippine National Police Sarangani Provincial Headquarters, the "aid of adapting cognitive interviewing skills is also very much essential to consider" in the conduct of tracing.
"Commitment and collaboration from among municipal health sectors, the law enforcement community and local government units is crucial in establishing an effective and speedy intervention in our fight against this pandemic in Sarangani," Remudaru pointed out.
Currently, Alejandro said the municipalities have tried to contain all fish vendors with prime movement at General Santos City fish port that recently caused the increase of cases in Sarangani.
"Antibody testing has been conducted as part of the monitoring and whoever be identified with signs and symptoms are automatically tested for RT-PCR," Alejandro said. (Beverly C. Paoyon/SARANGANI PROVINCIAL INFORMATION OFFICE)