Virus rears ugly side

Se­na­tor Christo­pher Lawrence “Bong” Go also raised the ur­gency to equip and ca­pac­i­tate hos­pi­tals and des­ig­nate more test­ing cen­ters out­side of Lu­zon to give the other regions ca­pa­bil­ity to de­tect COVID-19 cases

Daily Tribune (Philippines) - - FRONT PAGE - NEIL ALCOBER

Dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment make a bad mix for the so­cial stigma now be­ing felt by some COVID-19 vic­tims.

They try to stave these off while iso­lated in their homes. There is no hospi­tal that could take them in for

Other than Gatchalian, physi­cians con­firmed to have died of the virus were Dr. Hector Al­varez of No­valiches Dis­trict Hospi­tal; Dr. Raquel Seva, ob­ste­tri­ciang­y­ne­col­o­gist at the Evan­ge­lista Spe­cialty Hospi­tal in San Pe­dro La­guna; Philip­pine Heart Cen­ter car­di­ol­o­gists Dr. Is­rael Bac­tol and Dr. Raul Jara; Dr. Rose Pulido, on­col­o­gist at the San Juan de Dios Hospi­tal; Dr. Gre­go­rio Ma­casaet III, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist at the Manila Doc­tors Hospi­tal; Dr. Henry Fer­nan­dez of the Pan­gasi­nan Med­i­cal So­ci­ety; and Dr. Marcelo Jauchico, Pam­panga Pro­vin­cial Health Of­fi­cer.

Still un­con­firmed are re­ports that an­other doc­tor from Min­danao had suc­cumbed to the virus. He could be the 10th COVID-19 vic­tim among doc­tors, pend­ing the of­fi­cial list that is yet to be re­leased by the DoH.

Fur­ther deaths among the health work­ers in the front­lines, how­ever, could be avoided if they have enough pro­tec­tion, through PPE and masks, which could sup­port them in their di­ag­no­sis of pa­tients.

A former of­fi­cial of the Philip­pine Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (PMA) also shared: “We are hop­ing there would no longer be fur­ther deaths among us. But there could be more be­cause we are short in PPE in ev­ery hospi­tal. We are ex­posed to the virus, too,” he said.

Aside from PPE, the source said health work­ers also need N95 masks, gog­gles, face masks, sur­gi­cal masks and haz­mat suits. Sup­ply of these med­i­cal needs are scarce, although donors have been no­ti­fy­ing the DoH about their in­ten­tion to send them as soon as pos­si­ble.

“It is not just the doc­tors and nurses, but the nurse aids, the hospi­tal work­ers, the sec­ond lin­ers and back­lin­ers — they are all ex­posed to the virus,” he added.

Se­na­tor Christo­pher Lawrence “Bong” Go also raised the ur­gency to equip and ca­pac­i­tate hos­pi­tals and des­ig­nate more test­ing cen­ters out­side of Lu­zon to give the other regions ca­pa­bil­ity to de­tect COVID-19 cases.

“Visayas and Min­danao need them, too,” Go said. “We are call­ing on the DoH to move fast. It has funds to do it. Test­ing cen­ters are also needed in the Visayas and Min­danao.”

Dr. An­ton Lim, Board mem­ber of the Tzu Chi Foun­da­tion, dis­closed that the Tai­wan-based or­ga­ni­za­tion had sent PPE to the Philip­pines as part of its many do­na­tions.

These ma­te­ri­als, he said, were pur­chased from China and are now with the Bureau of Cus­toms (BoC), which has yet to re­lease them de­spite the emer­gency call is­sued by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte amid the pan­demic.

Lim said he hopes the do­na­tions will no longer be assessed with taxes by the BoC.

“These do­nated PPE should be re­leased with ur­gency,” Lim said. “The front­line health work­ers need the PPE. The haz­mat suits, they should not be brought out of the fa­cil­i­ties.”

“It can­not be sewn again, or re­paired. The suits should be dis­posed of af­ter use. It could be con­tam­i­nated,” he added.

It is not just the doc­tors and nurses who need these ma­te­ri­als, though, the Philip­pine Genome Cen­ter of the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines has also aired its call for PPE do­na­tions.

The Cen­ter is in charge of se­quenc­ing COVID-19 sam­ples for the next two weeks as the coun­try races to beat the con­ta­gion that has so far claimed 45 lives, with a to­tal of 707 pos­i­tively in­fected, 657 as un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and 6,321, more placed un­der mon­i­tor­ing.

The DoH has con­ducted tests on only 1,961, in­clud­ing top govern­ment of­fi­cials and VIP in their homes.

The Cen­ter also seeks dis­pos­able im­per­me­able lab­o­ra­tory gowns and caps, N95 masks, sur­gi­cal masks, face shields, shoe cov­ers and plas­tic throat swab kits.

Still un­con­firmed are re­ports that an­other doc­tor from Min­danao had suc­cumbed to the virus. He could be the 10th COVID-19 vic­tim among doc­tors, pend­ing the of­fi­cial list that is yet to be re­leased by the DoH

The med­i­cal in­dus­try and stake­hold­ers are not the only ones in need of PPE, though.

Jojo Flores, pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Mor­tu­ary Stake­hold­ers, also aired their lack of sup­port for their safety as they han­dle hun­dreds of dead bod­ies, their work­ers clue­less about the cause of their deaths.

“We also need pro­tec­tion. We need PPE be­cause we should be pro­tected from the virus, too,” he said.

The Philip­pines is not want­ing in PPE, though.

Chi­nese bil­lion­aire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Foun­da­tion last week do­nated half-amil­lion face masks, aside from a pledge to give the coun­try 50,000 tests kits.

These are part of the two mil­lion masks, 150,000 test kits, 20,000 sets of pro­tec­tive gear and 20,000 face shields Ma and Alibaba have dis­trib­uted to In­done­sia, Malaysia, Thai­land and the Philip­pines.

Other coun­tries and pri­vate com­pa­nies have also ex­tended help to the Philip­pines in its fight against the pan­demic.

Test kits from South Korea were do­nated by Den­nis Uy’s Udenna Corp. San Miguel Corp and the LT Group also provided face masks and al­co­hol to the front­lin­ers.

The govern­ment of China, which was ini­tially badly af­fected by COVID-19, had sent 100,000 test kits and other med­i­cal sup­plies which ar­rived in Manila on 21 March.

Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to the Philip­pines Huang Xil­ian handed over the test kits, along with 10,000 PPE, 100,000 sur­gi­cal masks and 10,000 N95 masks to the Philip­pine govern­ment.

For­eign Secretary Teodoro Loc­sin re­ceived these from a China-char­tered cargo flight on that day.

Stake­hold­ers, how­ever, claimed the DoH is caus­ing de­lays in the re­lease of these do­na­tions. The BoC and the Food and Drugs Ad­min­is­tra­tion are not help­ing ei­ther, sources said, as they al­legedly cause bu­reau­cratic de­lays in pro­cess­ing the do­nated items.

Duque also de­mands a let­ter from for­eign and lo­cal donors, a check­list of their do­na­tions, their dates of de­liv­ery, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ware­houses, their deeds of donation, and other re­quire­ments he would later deem as nec­es­sary be­fore con­firm­ing their grants.

With these strict rules, do­na­tions which have been pour­ing into the DoH gen­er­ally re­mains con­tained in ware­houses and at the BoC.

An­other source ac­cused Duque of ig­nor­ing calls, sug­ges­tions and ap­peals from other govern­ment of­fi­cials.

Mean­time, the DoH test results are lag­ging at the RITM, the only DoH-ac­cred­ited hospi­tal which pro­cesses the tests for COVID-19.

Twoother­hos­pi­tals–thePhilip­pine Gen­er­alHospi­tal­inMani­laandtheDr. Jose Ro­driguez Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal in Caloocan City – have been tapped by the DoH as COVID-19 cen­ters.

Pri­vate hos­pi­tals have been swamped with sus­pected COVID-19 cases but most of which are not rec­og­nized or not equipped with test­ing ma­chines and lab­o­ra­to­ries, as im­por­ta­tion and set­ting up of these ma­chines — which cost $300,000 each — are re­stricted.

The DoH also de­nied recog­ni­tion of the Marik­ina test­ing lab­o­ra­tory put up by its lo­cal govern­ment, claim­ing it should be set up in its own build­ing.

Marik­ina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro had wanted to op­er­ate the fa­cil­ity even if un­der DoH man­age­ment.

“The DoH in­formed us that it should not be placed within the City Health Office build­ing,” he said. “We ded­i­cated a whole floor for it, with an el­e­va­tor unit. But still, it was about lo­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to the DoH.”

It is not just the doc­tors and nurses, but the nurse aids, the hospi­tal work­ers, the sec­ond lin­ers and back­lin­ers — they are all ex­posed to the virus,

The DoH also turned down the Amang Ro­driguez Me­mo­rial Med­i­cal Cen­ter — a DoH-re­tained Level 3 fa­cil­ity — as an al­ter­na­tive test­ing cen­ter.

Prior to the COVID-19 out­break in the Philip­pines, Duque was fac­ing charges be­fore the Office of the Om­buds­man for al­leged vi­o­la­tions of Repub­lic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act and RA 6713 or the Code of Con­duct and Eth­i­cal Stan­dards for Pub­lic Of­fi­cials and Em­ploy­ees, as well as of plun­der as de­fined and pe­nal­ized un­der RA 7080 or the Plun­der Law.

Duque was charged for al­leged con­flict of in­ter­est in the PhilHealth’s lease on a build­ing owned by his fam­ily in Dagu­pan — a vote-rich city in Pan­gasi­nan. PhilHealth, the na­tional health in­surer, is an agency un­der the DoH.

Duque de­nied the al­le­ga­tions filed against him by the par­ents of 10 school­child­ren who al­legedly died af­ter be­ing ad­min­is­tered with the dengue vaccine Deng­vaxia in 2016. They were as­sisted by the Pub­lic At­tor­ney’s Office.

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