Two medical frontliners—a doctor and a nurse—have died in the fight against the pandemic coronavirus, adding to the increasing death toll in the Philippines which, shortly before sundown Wednesday, had reached 96.
Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Jose ‘Jolet’ delos Santos of the municipality of Jala-jala in Rizal province died Tuesday, days after he was tested positive for COVID-19.
Delos Santos’ son Jom confirmed the news in his Facebook post. He said his father was diagnosed with the disease on March 25.
The number of doctors who died had climbed to 15, prompting a physicians group to call on the Department of Health to subject the medical doctors to periodic testing.
“This is the reality of our current situation," stressed the Philippine College of Physicians Board of Regents, as it urged the DOH and all testing facilities to allot test kits for the periodic testing of “our healthcare workers, so we can eliminate and prevent further casualties in this war of attrition."
Dr. Janette Dancel-Liban, connected with the FEU-NRMF Medical Center and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, was the latest casualty. She died on Tuesday night in an unnamed hospital, a friend who knew her posted on Facebook on Wednesday.
“She was attending to a number of COVID-19 patients until she too was confined and brought to the ICU last Saturday. She passed away this evening. She’s our hero. An active Methodist, we will miss her,” the post by Lenora May Ancla-Abag on the Bangon Batangas FB forum read.
This was confirmed by other doctors who knew her and posted their reactions upon hearing the news.
Also, Nurse Arvin Pascual, 44, died due to "severe bronchopneumonia due to COVID-19," Philippine Nurses Association president Erlinda Castro-Palagana said, citing information on his death certificate.
Pascual had served at the Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, north of the capital.
Pascual was "a warrior against COVID-19," the PNA said on its Facebook page.
The PCP said it strongly believed the periodic testing should be integrated in the process flow either before or after the quarantine period of HCWs.
"Periodic testing can reassure the HCWs and response teams that they are not a source of infection to their families and patients when they report back for work and resume their duties," said PCP.
"This will also improve the morale of our HCWs and give them the confidence to complete their jobs with minimal distractions," it added.
Medical practitioners lamented that even the country’s big centers, government hospitals lacked PPE, “so we doctors are fighting without protection."
They added health workers direly needed N95 masks, hazmat suits, goggles, face masks and even surgical masks in operating rooms which supply had also been scarce.
“PPEs are indeed needed because those hazmat suits, those should not be washed. Those should not be sewn because after using them, they should be thrown immediately being contaminated," they said.
Rustico Jimenez, president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, echoed the sentiments their doctors had been exposed to dangers due to the absence of PPE.
He called on suppliers of PPE, masks, gadgets and other protective equipment to protect doctors and other health workers in the war against this "faceless enemy."
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the Department of Health was investigating reports that a doctor died after a patient lied about medical condition and history of travel or exposure to COVID-19.
The Philippine College of Physicians said setting up quarantine spaces for HCWs would not necessarily guarantee that they would not be exposed or expose others for the duration of their stay, further underscoring the need for periodic testing.
It said the overall success of the battle against the spread of COVID-19, along with the desired reduction in mortality and improvement in the rate of recovery among COVID patients, would greatly depend on the number and availability of healthcare workers for deployment during crisis situations.
The DOH had recommended a work schedule for each healthcare worker’s tour of duty broken down into two-week intervals of hospital work and quarantine.
The 14 doctors who died previously are Dr. Israel Bactol, cardiologist at the Philippine Heart Center; Dr. Rose Pulido, oncologist at San Juan de Dios Hospital; Dr. Greg Macasaet III, anesthesiologist at Manila Doctors Hospital; Dr. Raul Jara, cardiologist at the Philippine Heart Center; Dr. Henry Fernandez of Pangasinan Medical Society; Dr. Marcelo Jaochico of Pampanga Provincial Health Center; Dr. Raquel Seva, OB-Gyne in Laguna; Dr. Hector Alvarez of Novaliches District Hospital; Dr.Sally Gatchalian of the Research Institute for Tropica Medicine; Dr. Francisco Lukban of Philippine General Hospital; Dr. Helen Tudtud, pathologist from Cebu City, her husband Cebu City oncologist Dr. Dennis Tudtud; Dr. Leandro L. Resurreccion III, a pediatric transplant surgeon; and Dr. Dancel-Liban.