Doctor forced to resign from COVID-19 task force for criticizing Health Department

Dr. Tony Leachon. Photo: Leachon/FB
Dr. Tony Leachon. Photo: Leachon/FB

High-profile health advocate Dr. Tony Leachon has been forced to resign from the Philippines’ anti-coronavirus task force for publicly calling out the Department of Health’s (DOH) less-than-ideal response to the pandemic.

Leachon, a cardiologist, said yesterday that despite being booted out of the task force, he remains in good terms with its chief, Secretary Carlito “Charlie” Galvez.

Read: Ombudsman to investigate Duque, other health officials for ‘alleged irregularities’

“It’s with deepest regret that I announce that I am not anymore the Special Adviser of National Adviser – COVID 19 effective today. I have my full respect for Sec. Charlie Galvez and we will remain as good friends. Lots of good memories. But I have to move on,” Leachon said.

He added that he had to leave due to differences with the DOH, which said displayed a “lack of sense of urgency,” “problems in COVID data management,” and an absence of “transparency in [the] communication process.”

In a separate statement, Galvez said that Leachon was booted out due to his criticism of the DOH, which “jeopardized the communication efforts” of the government.

“He has been cautioned but remained deaf to collegial advise (sic). Constructive criticism among colleagues is most welcome to assure improvement but this should have been done internally to maintain [the] unity of effort,” Galvez said.

“Our institutions are not perfect but I can assure you that the majority of those who serve are doing so with a lot of dedication even at the risk of their own lives….To this end, I state my unequivocal support to the ranks of the professional men and women of the Department of Health and all our medical frontliners who continue to man their forts despite the losses in their ranks,” Galvez said.

Leachon got into trouble when he wrote a social media post to say that the DOH “has lost focus in everything. Risk communication, priorities, data management, and execution of all plans.” The statement reportedly displeased both DOH Secretary Francisco Duque and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.

The DOH has borne the brunt of public criticism over its handling of the pandemic, from its failure to conduct mass testing to its inability to provide adequate protective equipment to health workers, some of whom died of COVID-19. The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday announced that it would investigate Duque and other health officials for their alleged lapses.

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