June 14, 2024

Pulse Bliss

most important health challenges

Elite emergency medical ‘special forces’ always ready to save lives

The Department of Health (DOH) deploys emergency response team as part of the Philippine Interagency Contingent to Adiyaman, Türkiye in February 2023. (Photo Courtesy: DOH)

Did you know that the Philippines has a dedicated team composed of 31 personnel that can be deployed to provide medical and public health services in times of disasters and public health emergencies? 

The group is none other than the Philippine Emergency Medical Assistance Team (PEMAT), which is composed of highly-trained medical professionals who are ready to respond to disaster-stricken areas 24/7.

To date, these heroes are striving to strengthen their power to help by meeting the classification and minimum standards for emergency medical teams (EMTs) set by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

What does it mean to be WHO-classified? 

The EMT Global Classification System is an “external peer review evaluation mechanism” that seeks to identify the compliance of EMTs to internationally agreed and accepted standards of healthcare delivery during emergency situations. 

This system was first used during Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in 2013. 

The goal of standardizing the surge capacity and response mechanism of EMTs is motivated by the need to broaden their ability to support and care for affected populations in a wide range of conditions.  

This is to ensure that their healthcare delivery meets the standards and requirements for certain public health emergencies ranging from communicable to non-communicable diseases aside from sudden onset disasters and trauma. 

“[The mission of the EMT Initiative is] to enhance the surge capacity of countries through promotion of rapid mobilization and efficient coordination of both national and international medical teams and the health-care workforce to reduce loss of life and prevent long-term disability caused by disasters, outbreaks and other emergencies,” the EMT Initiative publication read. 

The certification will particularly help the PEMAT to establish a framework for safe, timely, equitable, and people-centered health services during local and international deployment. 

The Philippine contingent, composed of 30 personnel from DOH, 15 of which are from Tala Hospital, conducts humanitarian missions in Adiyaman, Türkiye in the aftermath of a very destructive earthquake. (Photo Courtesy: Civil Defense PH)

The Department of Health (DOH) issued Administrative Order No. 2018-008 to provide policy support for the mobilization of Health Emergency Response Teams (HERTs). 

As a country that is constantly at risk and vulnerable to various emergencies, the DOH recognizes the importance of improving the delivery of quality care and professional standards during EMT deployments. 

“During the course of response operations both locally and internationally, concerns on lack of coordination and communication, poor information, non-submission of reports, non-endorsement of HERTs for the continuity of care of victims, and teams arriving without right equipment, medicines, and supplies, and skills to match the need of the affected areas, among others were raised,” the national health department earlier said. 

These issues will be addressed by attaining the EMT Global Classification that is currently being pursued by the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium (DJNRMHS), a tertiary government hospital in Tala, Caloocan City. 

DJNRMHS, better known as the Tala Hospital, is the only medical institution in Metro Manila that was selected by the DOH to pursue the classification initiative along with Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in Pampanga and Eastern Visayas Medical Center in Leyte. 

DJNRMHS Assistant Chief Nurse and Health Emergency Management Bureau Head Eric John Capito Capito imparts the primary knowledge about the PEMAT during the 3rd Multi-Sector Governance Council Meeting of DJNRMHS. (Photo by Janna Pineda/PIA-NCR)