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    Interview with Atty. Barry Gutierrez on ANC Top Stories

    Interview with Atty. Barry Gutierrez on ANC Top Stories

    STANLEY PALISADA: Teleconsultations became the norm following the surge in COVID-19 cases as hospitals limit the entry of patients, and doctors cut down on face to face consultations. Now with government's usual platforms overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients seeking assistance, the E-Konsulta service launched by Vice President Leni Robredo helped fill the gaps in connecting patients to doctors.

    Let's get to know more about this service. We are joined by Atty. Barry Gutierrez. He is the spokesperson of the Office of the President. Good afternoon Atty. Gutierrez and welcome to the show.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Good afternoon, Stanley. Happy to be here. And it's Office of the Vice President [laughs].

    STANLEY PALISADA: All right. Before we talk about E-Konsulta, please tell us about the COVID situation in the country based on the reports that you are receiving at the Office of the Vice President? What are you most wary about?

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, it's really the sheer number of cases that is alarming. We remember a few months back, around August or September, we - we had basically the same problem. The number of cases was rising, the number of people that needed to see a doctor, or that needed to go to the hospital, was also going up. And it's reflected in the number of people that are submitting requests through the Bayanihan E-Konsulta service.

    Sometime in December, we were averaging around 90, a hundred requests a day. But the past few days, we've been hitting upwards of 400 requests within the first hour every day. So, it's really a clear indicator that there are a lot of people who are, you know, getting sick. There are a lot of people who want to talk to a doctor. And you know, we hope we will be able to keep up with the demand currently.

    STANLEY PALISADA: All right. E-Konsulta is a service that the Office of the Vice President has provided medical services to Filipinos. What services do you actually offer to ensure inclusivity and safety, given a lot of people are scared to go to medical facilities, especially now.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes, it's really, it's really teleconsultation. And just to be very clear, it's not just for COVID or suspected COVID cases--


    ATTY. BARRY GUITERREZ: --but also for other medical concerns that anybody would have.

    STANLEY PALISADA: It's interesting because I was talking to, yeah, I was talking to Dr. Jonas Del Rosario awhile ago and the PGH is saying--


    STANLEY PALISADA: --that they've been seeing all COVID patients, they're wondering about the other diseases and the other patients that also need attention. So E-Konsulta is something they can go to?

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes, because as you said, with COVID cases rising, and with hospitals obviously being overwhelmed with the number of people who are going there to, for COVID-related reasons, and you know, as a consequence of this also, people are afraid to go to the hospitals--

    STANLEY PALISADA: Right, right.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: --because they might, they might get infected.


    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Even people who, who do not have COVID-related concerns but are suffering from other things like diabetes, or other conditions, cannot see a doctor. So--


    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: --in response to this, Bayanihan E-Konsulta also offers consultation with general practitioners and other specialists for non COVID-related concerns. In recognition of the fact that it's not just people who have COVID, or who have concerns with COVID, who might require a teleconsultation.

    STANLEY PALISADA: And even with the sheer number of COVID cases right now, I could imagine that you'll be getting a lot of calls from mild to even asymptomatic COVID patients.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes, the concerns range from those who - well, the - they're experiencing some symptoms and they just want to be, they just want to be safe, to those people who actually require emergency assistance.

    So the range of services that Bayanihan E-Konsulta actually straddles this entire spectrum of concerns. So for people who just need consultation and possibly some, some advice from the doctors, we have that. For people who will require a certain level of care, medication, including Molnupiravir because we have an agreement with Qualimed--

    STANLEY PALISADA: I was about about, I was about to ask about that because you - they can get free Molnupiravir from your office?

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes, yes. If during the consultation the doctor doing the consultation prescribes Molnupiravir, then the patient who is undergoing the consultation will receive it. We will send it to their house. They don't need to leave, along with the care kit.

    I noticed earlier you had a story about paracetamol--


    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: So the care kit--

    STANLEY PALISADA: Includes that one.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: --includes paracetamol, yes.

    STANLEY PALISADA: All right.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: So we try to provide all these, all that the patient will need in case that they need to be treated at home. Of course for the more serious cases that will require, you know, immediate emergency services, we have an EMS on standby. They can go to your house, they have access to oxygen. If they need to bring you to the hospital, they can bring you to the hospital.

    And of course, access to hospitals is - was a concern--

    STANLEY PALISADA: Right, right.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: --in August, September. I imagine it's also becoming a concern right now, so we also have a--

    STANLEY PALISADA: But you were able to traffic, you were able to traffic patients to hospitals though, at that time.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Yes. Yes, we we have a partnership with the OHCC, the One Hospital Command Center.


    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: We help people who request through Bayanihan E-Konsulta to get a hospital bed if they, if they need to.

    STANLEY PALISADA: And the people watching outside Metro Manila would be wondering, where - is E-Konsulta available? Is it being offered nationwide? And what kind of partnerships do you have with the local medical societies, perhaps doctors and even suppliers?

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, unfortunately, we don't have the capacity to extend it beyond the NCR+ bubble. So similar to what we've been doing since April of 2021, when this was first launched, we only are able to accept requests coming from NCR and the NCR+ bubble. We would like nothing better than to be able to expand it nationwide, but our resources are limited.

    And quite honestly, this is completely volunteer-driven. We have over a thousand doctors who have volunteered, over 2,000 non-doctors who act as call center agents. And they're all volunteers. And you know, if, if we can expand to areas outside of NCR, we'd clearly love to be able to do that, but right now that's, that's beyond the volunteer capacity that we have.

    STANLEY PALISADA: And there are patients in Metro Manila right now who are as confused, maybe wondering where to go. Can you invite them to try E-Konsulta services?

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Well, there are two ways to go about it. One is if you have the messenger app, you can just look for Bayanihan E-Konsulta on Messenger. And when you get there, you'll be given access to a chatbot. Click "Get Started" and you will be asked the routine questions to be able to ultimately get you a teleconsult, teleconference, teleconsultation with a physician.

    You can also go to the Facebook Page - Bayanihan E-Konsulta on Facebook - click "Message" and go through the same process. But the thing that we tried very hard to do here is that we wanted people not to have to call, because you know, there is an expense related to that.

    STANLEY PALISADA: Right, right.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: So if you have free Facebook, you can go to Facebook. Just use the Messaging app and somebody will call you, and you can do the teleconsultation by phone.

    STANLEY PALISADA: All right. On that note, that's all the time we have for now. Thanks a lot for joining us today and for your guidance, Atty. Barry Gutierrez.

    ATTY. BARRY GUTIERREZ: Always a pleasure Stanley. And stay safe, please.


    Posted in Transcripts on Jan 08, 2022