By Rose de la Cruz | Published: August 1, 2020
The medical community on Saturday pleaded with the government—through the Inter-Agency Task Force in managing emerging infectious diseases (IATF)—for a two-week break or enhanced community quarantine to prevent the rapid spread of coronavirus, to prevent the collapse of the healthcare system.
As it is, the volume of sick people in hospitals is too overwhelming for the doctors and nurses, whose tours of duty are beyond what their physical and mental conditions can hold, they said in a Zoom press conference.
On Friday, the Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors also supported the formal statement of organized doctors and nurses, which was submitted to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Taskforce COVID-19 and to embattled Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The medical community wants the ECQ for mega Manila from Aug.1-15 to “recalibrate strategies against COVID-19” as they sounded the “distress signal” for the country’s healthcare system.
On July 30, the DoH reported 3,954 new positive cases of COVID-19. This rising trend of infections, among other scenarios, they said, prompted them to act fast.
On July 31, the LGU of Manila announced the temporary closure of the Ospital ng Maynila with the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among the hospital workers. The Dr. Fabella Memorial Hospital also announced that it will be closed for five days to decongest due to the overwhelming number of patients being admitted.
Our healthcare workers are getting sick as they take care of patients, responding to the call of duty while battling the fear and anxiety COVID-19 brings. Our healthcare workers are burnt out. Many are resigning and a lot more are discouraged with the seemingly endless number of patients getting admitted in the hospitals, they said.
We are in a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to come up with a consolidated plan. Hence, we, as frontliners, proposed the 2-week ECQ to address:
1. Hospital workforce deficiency – with the workforce reduced by the need for intermittent quarantine of personnel, and isolation of many who have fallen ill.
2. Failure of case finding and isolation – RT-PCR is now being denied patients with symptoms. LGUs that do test continue to insist on using rapid antibody tests to identify cases of COVID-19, sending home patients with symptoms who test negative. This may be responsible for the surge of cases we are now experiencing as rapid tests miss more than half of people with active, contagious illness. Patients with disease confirmed by RT PCR are being turned away from isolation centers and forced to isolate in homes where this is not even possible.
3. Failure of contact tracing and quarantine– Contact tracing is failing miserably. DOH and IATF guidance exists but LGU compliance is optional. The guidelines must be cascaded to our community leaders, health officers and local authorities and strictly enforced. A whole of society approach must be implemented, integrating use of non-uniformed personnel and volunteers.
4. Transportation safety – This problem cannot be addressed by long- term infrastructure plans. We need quick solutions with long term- effects such as immediate implementation of service contracting, pop-up bicycle lanes and pedestrlan lanes. We need this now, not next year, because people need to get to work but have no safe transport options.
The DoH and Department of Transportation must issue clear advisories both to transport providers and the commuting public on physical distancing, sufficient provisions for disinfectants or disinfection protocols, wearing of face shields and masks, and guidance on improving ventilation and air exchange (opening of windows).
5. Workplace safety – workplace safety is assured in many high- income settings, but there is clear failure for people with lower income. Employees and laborers are required by LGUs and their companies to have rapid antibody tests, despite international agreement that this test is not recommended for work clearance and could result in missed cases and local outbreaks. To make matters worse, employees and laborers, already suffering from the lockdown, are asked to shoulder the costs.
They asked the DoH, the Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Labor and Employment for clear advisories both to building managers and companies and the working public on physical distancing, sufficient provisions for disinfectants or disinfection protocols, wearing of face shields and masks, and guidance on improving ventilation and air exchange (opening of windows).
6. Public compliance with self-protection – The progressive lifting of quarantine has sent a public message that the pandemic is getting better. It is not. The progressive decline in compliance will push us to the brink to become the next New York City, where COVID-19 patients die at home or in stretchers, unable to find vacancies.
The first line of defense is the public, so people must be reminded on the use of masks and face shields, hand- washing and the practice social distancing – now more than ever.
They also asked the DTI to reconsider its pronouncement of re-opening businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, tutorial services, review centers, internet cafes, pet grooming services, drive-in cinemas during the proposed community quarantine starting August 1.
They stressed that only a healthy citizenry can reinvigorate the economy. The current crisis necessitates putting prime importance on effective solutions addressing the health problems at hand. The health sector cannot hold the line for much longer.
Our health care workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately the poor that is most affected.
Pag nawala na kami, paano na po kayo?