In the interest of keeping the U.S. citizen community in Panama informed, the U.S. Embassy has translated the report by Panama’s Presidential Advisory Health Council on the COVID-19 crisis. This report was distributed on July 3. We continue to strongly recommend that all U.S. citizens present in Panama closely follow health statements from the Government of Panama.
PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY HEALTH COUNCIL.
The undersigned, members of the Advisory Council recently appointed by His Excellency, the President of the Republic Laurentino Cortizo, consider it our moral and civic duty to address our fellow citizens to answer four key questions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted the health, life and wellbeing of all Panamanians. We do this in service of one of the basic tenets of medicine in the 21st century: the patients and the population are at the forefront of the public health scene, all decisions must be shared and it is the patients and the population who own their destiny, their health and their lives, and they must assume a proactive role in taking and implementing sanitary measures jointly with the guidelines established by public health.
Our duty is to advise the President comprehensively regarding the pandemic.
FIRST QUESTION: WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN OUR COUNTRY?
The pandemic in Panama is in phase 4 which is the most advanced in the pandemic according to the World Health Organization, which is community transmission at a high level, focused in the metropolitan area, East Panama, West Panama and San Miguelito, with a spike in some provinces where there is an almost triple increase in cases, and an important increase in mortality, this threatens to overflow a health system which already had a weak health network particularly in hospitals and primary attention.
SECOND QUESTION: WHAT FACTORS HAVE CAUSED THIS EVOLUTION?
The presence of this new virus that produced this unprecedented disease which now co-exists with chronic diseases and the social and economic disparity make it harder to contain and mitigate this viral pandemic. We must recognize that in these four months the lack of experience and knowledge of this virus centered our attention on healing patients and on a lesser degree in the participation in prevention as well as a low dynamic in preventing the disease centered in communities with active community participation and it is our duty to clearly state that there in no way out of a pandemic without a robust and enthusiastic community response.
THIRD QUESTION: HOW WILL THE PANDEMIC EVOLVE IN THE FOLLOWING WEEKS?
Following the epidemiological behavior, the forecast is a significant increase in cases and the risk of total occupancy in hospitals and a general increase in mortality with risk of social unrest and exhaustion of the health and economic sectors.
FOURTH QUESTION: WHAT DO WE DO? PROPOSED ACTIONS:
Strengthen our health network by appointing:
■ 200 doctors exclusively for community attention of the COVID network.
■ 3,000 community and health assistants exclusively for COVID and assign them to areas with the most COVID activity with quick and efficient training in epidemiological tracing as already established, and
■ Nurses, nurses aids and all personnel necessary to strengthen the services of the health network for COVID, based on the needs of the most affected areas.
■ Urgently purchase one million swab test kits to test health personnel and the public, medication and new equipment for Social Security System already installed.
■ Ensure that health personnel have all the instruments and equipment they need to ensure their safety while providing medical care.
■ Interinstitutional coordinating body, Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), Ministry of Health (MINSA), Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MICI) and Ministry of Labor (MITRADEL) (already appointed by the President and in execution).
■ Obtaining hotels and shelters to immediately transfer positive patients so they can adequately quarantine.
■ Open hospital areas in unconventional locations such as convention centers, transform areas to broaden the hospital network.
■ Implement rules for COVID testing on patients admitted to hospitals for other types of issues not related to COVID, to prevent propagation within the hospitals.
■ Ensure the provision of all medical services NON COVID related so there is no additional outbreak caused by lack of attention to other causes in the health system.
■ Maintain vigilance on other issues such as Dengue, Hantavirus and other diseases that emerge or may re-emerge.
■ Establish adequate basic care structures in places where there are many cases with doctors and personnel for immediate attention.
■ Digital technological traceability which integrates communities and hospital beds (already being executed by the Ministry of Health).
■ Maintain a state of high alert and prevention by testing in places such as care homes, jails, national police, fire department and Oncological Institute, and others, using the chronic disease census.
■ Distribute all the new equipment following the epidemiological component.
■ Ensure food and the economic conditions of COVID patients through Panama Solidario program.
- For those in hotels the situation is more pragmatic as they are adequately fed.
- For those in their homes we must guarantee food based on their social and economic status.
■ Solid community education program and motivation campaign.
■ Consult with all sectors of Panamanian health such as the Public Health School, Association of Intensive Care Physicians, Doctors of the Hospital Complex, Veterinarians, international consultation (already carried out and being executed).
■ Reopen the economy without social and economic disparity to start decreasing the serious problem which has become entirely more visible with the pandemic, there will be controls and prevention for COVID establishing a control list.
■ Establish several cleaning crews per infection area or cluster, and for hospitals and centers providing services.
■ Conduct prevalence studies on companies or areas that plan to reopen.
■ Ensure that the COVID pcr test is negative before discharging a patient or those who are under quarantine anywhere.
■ International support from countries who have shown interest in assisting, we will consult with: China, Korea, Singapore, Israel, Cuba, and U.S.
Panama, July 3, 2020
This translation is provided as a courtesy. The text in Spanish can be found at pa.usembassy.gov/es/consejo-consultivo-presidencial-de-salud-acerca-de-la-crisis-del-covid-19-en-panama