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Thursday, June 13, 2024

We’re still in trouble–NTF

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The country isn’t out of the woods yet, given the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant and the lack of health care workers that has put a strain on hospitals, National Task Force deputy chief administrator Secretary Vince Dizon said Wednesday night.

LOCKDOWN. Two barangay tanod put up a warning sign declaring that GG Cruz St. in Pasay City has been placed under granular lockdown due to 13 COVID-19 cases in the area as of Thursday, September 23, 2021. Danny Pata

“We will be visiting hospitals because we have received a very worrisome report that many of our hospitals, including the private hospitals that are among the biggest and the best, are closing down COVID wards because of the lack of health care workers,” Dizon told President Rodrigo Duterte during a pre-recorded Talk to the People that aired late Wednesday evening.

“This is I think is our biggest challenge now, Mr. President. We have to understand as the numbers show, we are not out of the woods because of the Delta variant. Even if there seems to be a decline–a slight decline in cases–these cases are still very high. And our hospitals are still overburdened.”

“The most worrisome problem is the health care workers getting sick, Mr. President, and we really need to augment and help them and really assist our hospitals as much as we can,” Dizon added.

Some 104 health care workers have succumbed to COVID-19, data from the Department of Health as of Sept. 13 showed.

A total 24,284 health care workers have tested positive for the disease, of which more than 300 are still undergoing treatment.

The pandemic has also exacerbated a pre-existing lack of nurses, said Maristela Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United – a situation she described as ironic in one of the world’s biggest exporters of health care workers.

About 40 percent of private hospital nurses have resigned since the start of the pandemic, according to the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines.

Duterte on Wednesday called on the medical personnel of the police and the military to help hospitals that are struggling with the influx of COVID-19 patients.

“I am ordering the medical corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, if you are listening to me now, please place your human resources ready, on deck,” Duterte said in his prerecorded Talk to the People.

Duterte made the appeal to the medical corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), as he said COVID-19 is taking a toll on health workers’ health.

Duterte said it is more difficult now for public and private hospitals to deal with the pandemic, considering the current high number of COVID-19 cases.

He hoped that medical personnel of AFP and PNP would help hospitals attend to the needs of coronavirus-stricken patients.

“We have a dearth of supply of the human resource,” Duterte said. “Our health care workers are getting sick. Our hospitals are being filled to the brim, and more of our people are getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”

Duterte said he is asking for the help of the police and military because he can “easily count on them.”

“I have to use a little of my influence on them to convince them to help in the fight against COVID-19,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “I do not want to order them to do so because that’s not good. I am just asking for help.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government is also hiring additional medical front-liners who will help in the country’s fight against COVID-19.

Roque said the recruitment of new health workers is underway to address the manpower shortage in hospitals.

Meanwhile, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Wednesday demanded that the government allot a bigger COVID-19 response budget for 2022 to ramp up free health services, particularly free mass testing to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

The FNU, in a statement, sounded the alarm over the “unabated” rise in the number of COVID-19 cases among health workers recently.

The FNU said the proposed Department of Health 2022 budget for the COVID-19 response is less than 1 percent of the proposed P5.024 trillion national budget next year.

“Unless the government seriously fulfills its primary obligation to undertake basic public infection control measures, the COVID-19 will continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives including and most especially on nurses and other health care workers in the forefront of the pandemic response,” it said.

The group also reiterated its call for mass hiring of nurses to boost the health system.

“In the present scenario where hospitals are already full to the brim, patients waiting for days at the ER for admission and many more just dying in their homes or even in their vehicles while queuing in hospitals – there indeed is gross inefficiency and weak management in the government’s COVID response,” FNU said.

“Undoubtedly, with the increasing COVID-19 cases of infection and deaths among nurses, doctors and co-health workers are victims themselves of a government COVID-19 response that is generally inefficient and mismanaged,” it added.

The FNU also called for “a caring, efficient and effective leadership” and sought an end to “an insensitive and inefficient management that has defined the last 18 months of the pandemic.”

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