The House committee on appropriations chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) approved a substitute bill seeking to provide policies and prescribe procedures on surveillance and response to notifiable diseases, epidemics, and health events of public health concern.
The committee approved the unnumbered substitute bill titled “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act” after amending the funding provision of the proposal.
The committee amended Section 11 of the bill so that the amount needed for the initial implementation of the Act shall be charged against the current year’s appropriation of the Department of Health (DOH). Thereafter, such sums as may be necessary for the continued implementation of the Act shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
The bill, which substituted House Bill 3163 authored by Rep. Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), chairperson of the committee on health, declares it is the policy of the State to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them. The State shall endeavor to protect the people from public health threats through the efficient and effective disease surveillance of notifiable diseases.
The State recognizes epidemics and other public health emergencies as threats to public health and national security, which can undermine the social, economic, and political functions of the State.
The State also recognizes the disease surveillance and response system of the DOH and its local counterparts as the first line of defense to epidemics and health events of public health concern that pose risk to public health and security.
The bill refers to notifiable disease as “a disease that by legal requirements, must be reported to the public health authorities.”
It refers to health event of public health concern as “either a public health emergency or a public health threat.”
Moreover, it refers to epidemic or outbreak as “an occurrence of more cases of disease than normally expected within a specific place or group or people over a given period of time.”
The bill refers to emerging or re-emerging infectious disease as diseases that: have not occurred in humans before; have occurred previously but affected only small numbers of people in isolated areas; have occurred throughout human history but have only recently been recognized as a distant disease due to an infectious agent; are caused by previously undetected or unknown infectious agents; or are due to mutant or resistant strains of a causative organism.
Among the objectives of the bill are: continuously develop and upgrade the list of nationally notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern with their corresponding definitions; enforce mandatory reporting of notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern to the DOH and its local counterparts; and ensure the establishment and maintenance of relevant, efficient, and effective disease surveillance and response system at the national and local levels.
Moreover, the bill aims to provide accurate and timely health information about notifiable diseases, health-related events and conditions to private citizens and health providers as an integral part of response to public health emergencies; require public and private physicians, allied medical personnel, professional societies, hospitals, clinics, health facilities, laboratories, institutions, workplaces, schools, prisons, ports, airports, establishments, communities, other government agencies, and non-government organizations to actively participate in disease surveillance and response; and establish effective mechanisms for strong collaboration with national and local government health agencies to ensure proper procedures are in place to promptly respond to notifiable disease reports, including case investigations, treatment, and control and containment, including follow up activities.
The bill mandates the Epidemiology Bureau under the DOH to regularly update and issue a list of nationally notifiable health events of public health concern with their corresponding case definitions. The selection and the deletion of diseases and health events of public health concern shall be based on criteria to be established by the DOH.
It provides that the Philippine Integrated Database Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) System and other duly institutionalized diseases surveillance and response systems of the DOH for notifiable diseases and health events of public health concern shall be recognized as the official information systems for mandatory notification of terms provided in the Act.
The DOH Secretary shall have the authority to declare epidemics of national and/or international concerns except when the same threatens national security, in which case, the President of the Republic of the Philippines shall declare a State of Public Health Emergency and mobilize governmental and non-governmental agencies to respond to the threat.
Provincial, City or Municipal Health Offices may declare an outbreak within their respective localities provided the declaration is supported by sufficient scientific evidence based on, but not limited to, surveillance data, epidemiologic investigation, environmental investigation, and laboratory investigation.
The DOH, in coordination with the local government units (LGUs), shall ensure that Epidemiology and Surveillance Units (ESUs) are established and functional in all levels of the DOH and its local counterparts, and in public and private health facilities and laboratories as well as ports and airports in all provinces, cities, and municipalities throughout the country.
Such coordination shall provide effective linkages between the public health authorities and LGUs in the provision of timely, accurate, and reliable epidemiology information from the field; ensure needed response; facilitate capacity building in the field of epidemiology, surveillance and response. All ESUs shall have trained manpower and provision of adequate resources to effectively perform their disease surveillance and response functions.
The bill prohibits the following acts: breach of privacy and confidentiality; tampering of records or intentionally providing misinformation; non-performance of persons and entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public health concern; and non-cooperation of the person or entities identified as having the notifiable disease, or affected by the health event of public health concern.
Any person or entity found to have violated any of the abovementioned prohibited acts shall be penalized with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment of one month to six months, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.
The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) shall have the authority to suspend or revoke the license to practice the profession of erring medical professionals.
Likewise, the business permit and license to operate of erring institutions and agencies shall be cancelled.