Doctors at Manila’s San Lazaro Hospital, a specialist center for infectious diseases, have seen and fought humanity’s nastiest contagions – but never in the mold of COVID-19.
Suspected coronavirus cases have died at triage, terrified patients grow outraged when they could not get tested immediately and the doctors have to manage the anxiety they could be carriers, too.
“It’s a living nightmare,” said Dr. Ferdinand de Guzman, who at 60 years old is himself in a high-risk group.
De Guzman talked of the nightmarish experience as yet another doctor in the frontlines had fallen four days earlier from COVID-19, which had its epicenter in Wuhan, China in December last year.
Roberto Anastacio, a cardiologist from the University of Santo Tomas and the Makati Medical Center, died on April 10 in the line of duty after 30 years in the profession.
“We honor health warrior Roberto ‘Bobby’ V. Anastacio, MD, whose oath, commitment, and dedication led him to fight at the COVID-19 frontline,” the MMC said in a Facebook post.
Meanwhile, party-list lawmaker on Wednesday warned the Philippines might face a severe shortage of nurses in the years ahead, unless the government set a considerably higher starting pay for them.
“We foresee wealthy nations around the world rushing to expand the capacities of their public health systems and stepping up their recruitment of Philippine-educated nurses once the COVID-19 pandemic is suppressed,” Rep. Michael Defensor of Anakalusugan said.
Defensor, House health committee vice chairman, made the statement as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration earlier moved to temporarily stop the deployment of nurses and 12 other categories of allied medical professionals and technicians as the country wrestles with the spread of the new Chinese virus.
He said Congress might have to double to P60,000 the entry-level monthly pay of nurses in both public and private hospitals to encourage new practitioners and discourage at least some of them from leaving the country.
“The initial figure we are looking at is P60,000 monthly, which is more or less the same starting pay being offered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Filipino nurses, without counting fringe benefits,” Defensor said.
Defensor said: “If just half of the 10,526 new licensees leave the country every year, we won’t even have enough new nurses to replace those who are retiring in the years ahead.”
“We don’t like to play God,” De Guzman said. “Clinicians just have to make decisions.”
Many are afraid to go home after work. “We are worried about our families,” De Guzman said.
“We always reserve one or two beds for (hospital) employees. We never had this problem before, ever.”
“Based on figures from the Professional Regulation Commission, only 31,580 new nursing licenses were issued between 2017 and 2019, or an average of just 10,526 every year,” Defensor said. With AFP