The House committee on health has approved a bill which seeks to strengthen the existing legal framework for notifiable diseases.
The committee on health chaired by Rep. Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon) approved House Bill 3163 that also aims to ensure the establishment and maintenance of efficient and effective disease surveillance and response system by using evidence-based data or research in making reports in the formulation of health policies and health advocacies on notifiable diseases.
The bill seeks to amend Republic Act No. 3573 or “An Act Which Provides for the Prevention and Suppression of Dangerous Communicable Diseases” which was enacted in 1929.
In a hearing presided by the panel’s vice-chairman Rep. Mario Vittorio Mariño (5th District, Batangas), Tan, author of the bill, said much has changed since RA 3573 was enacted. Said law requires all individuals and health facilities to report notifiable diseases to national and local health authorities.
“We are now living in a rapidly changing world of information and technology where notification, by the fastest means possible, is required for the epidemic-prone diseases that newly appear in the population or have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence,” Tan said.
Tan said her bill allows for the collection of information that shows how often the disease occurs, which significantly aid public health authorities identify disease trends and track disease outbreaks and protect public health.
“Particularly, it mandates every physician, director, superintendent or persons in charge of hospitals, institutions, among others, upon which occur any case of reportable or communicable disease to immediately notify the nearest health station either by telephone, by messenger, or by written notice specifying the disease and the name of the person afflicted,” she explained.
“Notifiable disease” as defined under the measure refers to a disease that, by legal requirements, must be reported to the public health authority when the diagnosis is made.
Among the objectives of the bill are: continuously develop and upgrade the list of nationally notifiable diseases, health-related events and conditions with their corresponding case definitions; enforce mandatory reporting to public health authorities on diseases, bio-terrorism, other health-related events and conditions designated by the State as reportable; ensure the establishment and maintenance of efficient and effective disease surveillance responsive system at the national and local levels; and provide sufficient funding to support the communications technology and infrastructure needed to efficiently collect, analyze and disseminate the disease surveillance information and allow for transmission at all levels.
Likewise, it aims to require public and private laboratories to actively participate in disease surveillance through the following: assurance of the availability of appropriate laboratory tests and reagents and on-going technological and training support for new and classic methods of notifiable disease detection and identification of other health-related events and conditions; and the establishment of linkages with clinical, veterinary, agricultural, and academic laboratories to share expertise, services and identify laboratory surge capacity for any public health emergency.
The bill also intends to provide accurately 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 and to 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, among others.
The DOH, the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) and the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines (PHAP) expressed their support for the approval of the bill.