Solidarity in the time of COVID-19 -- MS Supplement
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COVID-19 is political

"There is no excuse for failing further."

 

 

The picture of two kids holding up a sign that read, “To everyone, our mom and dad are doctors, please STAY HOME so we can see them soon ☺ (because if there are less patients, they will come HOME)” melted my heart.

The kids are actually my grandchildren, a nine year-old girl and a five year-old boy who are now staying with me. Their parents are my daughter and son-in-law who are out there with other medical people in the war against the dreaded Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

What is happening to our health care workers is both heartbreaking and infuriating. They continue to fulfill their duty of caring for our health and saving lives while continuously exposing themselves to the virus. They are risking their health, even their lives in doing their duty.

We repeatedly see doctors, nurses, and hospitals, both public and private literally beg for personal protective equipment (PPEs), masks, gloves, test kits, and other necessary supplies for them to be protected while providing care and treatment to those who have caught the virus.

We see the private sector, different foundations, some celebrities and ordinary Filipinos trying to help by raising funds, sourcing the needed resources, and delivering the same to hospitals. We see people using their talent and creativity to locally produce supplies.

As of this writing, ten (10) medical doctors who served at the front lines of this war have fallen. An unknown number of HCWs are either Persons Under Monitoring (PUM), or Persons Under Investigation (PUI). Per statements of various medical practitioners, the number is big. Like dominoes, our HCWs are falling, getting infected, or exposed, one by one.

There is now a shortage of front liners and this is something that we can afford. In fact, even the Department of Health (DOH) has put out a call for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to VOLUNTEER.

Several major hospitals have already announced that they can no longer accommodate more COVID-19 patients because they are already over their capacity. This is despite the fact that many patients exhibiting mild symptoms are turned away, untested because of so-called DOH protocol. I am sure that other hospitals are nearly in the same boat and it is possible that soon, if recovery rate remain as slow as now, very few hospitals will be able to accept new patients.

The situation is bound to worsen. The numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country are significantly increasing because the results of tests are now coming out and government says more testing can be done. Even the DOH has said that we expect an upsurge.

As of March 27, the confirmed cases reached 803, recovered cases numbered 31, and, deaths 54. This, however, may be misleading because the cases are only based on the conducted tests which remain to be few. There is no way of knowing the actual number of cases especially among those in poor and congested communities. Even those tested have to wait for ten to 15 days before results are known. Some patients have died without knowing their test results. Consequently, there is also no way of knowing the exact number of deaths since only cases known to government are counted.

The World Health Organization (WHO) projection for the country is far from encouraging. An estimated 75,000 COVID-19 cases are foreseen in the next few weeks. Five per cent of these are expected to be severe.

What infuriates many, including HCWs, is the situation could have been a little better had government prepared early and prepared well. This was the public’s clamor when other countries were already seeing an upsurge and the Philippines was still relatively COVID-19-free. We could have banned incoming foreigners and procured needed supplies earlier.

Until now, our hospitals, and even DOH still very heavily depends on donations from the private sector or other countries of needed supplies revealing how ill-prepared the country is for this pandemic.

For many weeks test kits have been very limited. Despite acute shortages, however, government officials and their families, despite having no symptoms, were tested by the DOH.

We also witness the abuse of power and authority of some politicians. Outside of being given undue priority in testing, there are those who Senator Koko Pimentel broke protocols when, as a PUI, he accompanied his wife to the Makati Medical Center (MMC) for a Caesarean Section delivery that was not due for two weeks more. In the process, Pimentel exposed everybody that he came into contact with in the hospital. HCWs needed to go on quarantine depleting further the already lean health force of the hospital. The MMC had issued a statement denouncing Pimentel’s actions.

Pimentel also did groceries at the S&R BGC while he was supposed to be in quarantine. Again, this action put those in the big supermarket at risk. The affected workers had to go on self-quarantine. Pimentel’s irresponsibility and abuse of his position clearly resulted in committing acts that violated a number of laws. He should be made accountable.

Until now, government is very slow in responding to problems. Not only are the test kits limited, laboratories and personnel that can process the kits are also severely lacking. This is the reason for the very long waiting time before test results are released. Despite this, however, the DOH has yet to approve Marikina City’s request to operate the test processing laboratory and equipment they purchased and set-up.

The operationalization of COVID-only facilities is also slow in coming. Fast tracking this would address the shortage of hospital space and thus, needs to be prioritized.

There are many problems in how this administration is fighting this war against COVID-19 and to address these Congress gave in to the Executive’s request for a law granting Pres. Duterte emergency powers. RA 11469 has been passed in one session day. This new law makes Duterte extremely powerful for at least three months.

There is no excuse for further failure. COVID-19 is after all, also a political issue.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , Corona Virus Disease 2019 , COVID-19 , political , Persons Under Monitoring , PUM , Persons Under Investigation , PUI , World Health Organization , WHO , Department of Health , DOH
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