The Occupational Safety and Health Center –Regional Extension Unit VI (OSHC-REU VI), together with the Regional Coordinating Council on Tuberculosis Elimination in Western Visayas met via teleconference and discussed the new normal for TB elimination. The World Health Organization-Philippines ranked Region 6 as the top performing region for case notification rate. .

To ensure the continuity of TB services during community quarantine, the Department of Health issued Department Order No. 2020-0128. According to this issuance, TB screening shall continue, subject to social distancing and infection control protocols. Treatment is also shifted from clinic-based to home-based prevent exposure of both the healthcare provider and patients. The patients will be provided with a one-month supply of anti-TB drugs and will be overseen by their assigned treatment partner via on-line means.  Moreover, flexibility in sputum collection for follow-up and standard, short all oral regimen for drug-resistant TB has been implemented to encourage the patient-care approach.

According to DOH Regional NTP Coordinator Christine Mosqueda, a National TB Program adaptive plan is being formulated to address the displacement of persons with TB in the health system due to the COVID-19 situation. Measures and adjustments to the TB implementation program are carried out with strict observance to infection prevention and control including physical distancing and wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment.

In terms of TB advocacy in the workplace, a two-day monitoring was conducted in selected companies in February before the nationwide community quarantine was implemented. During the monitoring, it was found that the companies visited were conducting annual health exams which included chest X-rays. Workers with suspected signs and symptoms of TB were referred to their company doctor or directly to the DOTS facility.  Companies that still lack a TB policy in the workplace were given assistance to develop their own policies.

Private establishments continue to be reminded to implement their occupational safety and health policies and programs, especially on TB in compliance to the Republic Act 11058 DOLE DO 198-18. The OSHC REU VI office is open to assist private establishments in ensuring that their policies and programs are compliant to the OSH Standards. 

END/ M Melocoton