Health workers make up 7% of COVID-19 cases in PH
MANILA, Philippines — Medical frontliners, who risk their lives to treat the infected, now comprise nearly 7 percent of all confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) reported on Wednesday.
The DOH said 252 health-care workers were confirmed to have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Of that total, 152 are doctors and 63 are nurses.
Dr. Beverly Ho, special assistant to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, said 12 health workers had died of COVID-19.
The DOH’s count is fewer than the 17 doctors earlier reported by the Philippine Medical Association to have succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Case investigation form
Ho explained that in gathering the patients’ data, the DOH was relying on the case investigation form submitted by the hospitals.
She pointed out that if the form submitted to the DOH was incomplete, such as the occupation field was left unfilled, “we will never know from our database how many health workers were actually affected.”
Under Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, all health workers whose condition becomes severe are entitled to receive P100,000. This is on top of their special risk allowance and the health coverage provided by Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
If they die, their families will be given P1 million. This package covers all the health workers who died of COVID-19 since Feb. 1.
To reduce the risk of infection, the DOH implemented at its three COVID-19 referral centers a two weeks duty-two weeks off plan for health workers. Asked if the DOH was recommending the same plan to the hospitals, Ho said the hospitals were “given the flexibility to implement a duty schedule that is appropriate to their situation.”
Earlier, various medical associations and health groups urged the public to be upfront with their travel history and possible exposure as they risked infecting health workers. They also appealed for supplies of personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of health workers falling ill.
Ho said the DOH had delivered a fresh batch of 25,100 sets of protective equipment to 18 government hospitals across the country. Two private hospitals, Marikina Valley Medical Center and Manila Doctors Hospital, are also set to receive 1,000 sets each.
Mental health center case
It is unclear whether the DOH’s list of infected health workers includes the alleged 28 front-liners at the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) who reportedly contracted the virus.
Ho said NCMH chief Roland Cortez would issue a statement on the matter, but as of this reporting, he had yet to release one.
Quoting Cortez, Ho said the NCMH had enough protective equipment, belying allegations on social media that the country’s premier mental health institution had a shortage of hazard suits, causing an outbreak of the virus in the hospital.
In a statement on the NCMH’s Facebook page, Cortez slammed chief administrative officer Clarita Avila for talking to reporters and reporting the situation at the hospital. He, however, did not refute any of the details given by Avila in a television interview, such as more than half of the NCMH’s 83 psychiatrists and 30 percent of its more than 1,000 nurses were no longer reporting for work because they had been put under quarantine.
As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country was 3,870 with the addition of 106 new cases.
The death toll was now 182, as five more patients were reported to have died. This is, however, the lowest reported number of fatalities since March 29, when the DOH recorded the death of three patients.
The number of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 increased to 96. The 12 new recoveries is to date the most recorded in a single day.
Too early to tellHo noted that while the new cases were back to below 200, this did not clearly indicate that the virus spread was now slowing down.
“It is still too early to tell if these cases are actually decreasing. But we’re exerting the maximum effort to track all cases for us to see a better picture [of the situation] as soon as possible,” she said.
Ho also said it was still too early to say whether the Luzon lockdown had slowed the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) said it could no longer admit dialysis patients believed to have contracted the coronavirus.
NKTI executive director Rose Marie Rosete-Liquete said that on average, the hospital was receiving 76 such patients in its COVID-19 tents. Of these, 59 require hemodialysis treatment.
Liquete said that even after expanding the hospital’s capacity, it could no longer admit more possible coronavirus carriers.
“Despite our diligent efforts to accommodate all patients at our doorsteps, we are constrained to limit admissions. Patients who may not be admitted will be given appropriate advice and medical treatment in coordination with their respective attending physicians,” Liquete said in a statement.
The opening this week of three field hospitals in Manila will ease the pressure on regular hospitals. The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Rizal Memorial Coliseum (RMC) and World Trade Center have been converted to serve as quarantines for mild cases of COVID-19.
When the conversion is finished, the PICC will have 294 beds; RMC ,112; and WTC 502.
The field hospitals will be manned by military and police medical personnel. They will initially handle patients confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus and are either asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.
Health Secretary Duque has given assurance that should patients conditions deteriorate, they will immediately be taken to hospitals for proper management.
The DOH earlier designated the Philippine General Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines and Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium as COVID-19 referral centers for severe and critical cases.
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