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NCMH official ordered to stop issuing statements on COVID-19

The chief administrative officer of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) has been ordered to stop issuing updates on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation inside the facility.

In a memorandum posted on the hospital’s Facebook page on Wednesday, Clarita Avila was told by NCMH chief Roland Cortez that she was not the hospital spokesperson nor a member of its COVID-19 and Expanded Management Committees.


“The Department of Health (DOH) was surprised that you are going around various media outlets and speaking about COVID-19 issues when you are NOT the spokesperson of the hospital or authorized to do so,” he said.

Cortez cited a DOH memorandum that prohibits healthcare facilities from releasing information on COVID-19 cases prior to the official announcement of the department and local government units “to ensure harmonized reporting, prevent circulation of unverified information.”

The NCMH executive said Avila is “ordered to refrain from issuing statements about COVID-19 issues because that function is under Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.”

‘Curtailment of speech’

Avila confirmed that she received the memorandum at noon and said she is “prevented from speaking the truth to the media.”

“It is curtailing my freedom of speech and denying the public of their right to information of what is happening inside NCMH,” she told GMA News Online. “After all, what I say in my interviews are based on facts.”

Avila earlier reported that 28 NCMH staff have contracted COVID-19, while 50 out of their 83 psychiatrists are undergoing self-quarantine.

She also disclosed that six of their elderly patients tested positive, three of whom have already died.

Avila also revealed that some of their staff had stopped reporting to work because the NCMH lacked personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

“In my interviews, I just appealed for help and support for our frontliners so they can be protected with PPEs and other medical supplies needed to combat this crisis,” she said.

“In fact, donations and support were outpouring from our good samaritans after the interviews. I thank all of them for supporting the plight of NCMH frontliners,” she added. —AOL, GMA News