Discrimination rears ugly head in Cebu, Nueva Ecija
CEBU CITY, Cebu, Philippines —The acting social welfare chief of Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu province and a nurse in Nueva Ecija province have something in common: the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and target of discrimination.
Annabeth Cuizon, acting head of the Lapu-Lapu City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) Office, and Jezreel Padolina, an emergency room nurse in Dr. Paulino J. Garcia Memorial Research and Medical Center (PJGMRMC) in Cabanatuan City, found social media as a platform to air their dismay at the discrimination that they and their families face.
Cuizon was aghast that even the social workers in her office, who were supposed to distribute amelioration cash cards to city residents, were denied the use of a vehicle simply because they were working with her. She did not specify from which office in the city the vehicle was coming from.
Mayor Junard Chan could not be reached for comment.
Cuizon is now confined at the hospital. All the CSWD personnel tested negative for COVID-19, but they became suspected cases and were treated like pariahs by the very residents they were helping in communities on quarantine to stem the spread of the disease.
Although asymptomatic, Cuizon had to be isolated for two weeks and was expected to be discharged after four days. She was, however, more apprehensive than happy about leaving the hospital.
“I’m anxious as to how people will look at me as soon as I step out of this hospital room,” she said in a Facebook Live post on Saturday.
“I was told by my social workers that they have been discriminated by people simply because their head tested positive for COVID-19. I am still here at the hospital and that is how people look at me. How much more if I’ll be discharged?” she said in Cebuano.
“I pity people, who like me, tested positive for COVID-19. We can’t do anything about it. We bear the illness and yet here goes some individuals who treat us like this.”
Since March, the CSWD led by Cuizon had been distributing relief goods to the people in Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island and attending to their needs. As of Sunday, Lapu-Lapu has recorded 30 COVID-19 cases, while Cebu City reported a rise to 400.
“Because of this work, I got infected by the virus. I didn’t mind it although I really have to undergo a 14-day quarantine as part of the government’s protocol,” Cuizon said.
She appealed to the city’s legislators to enact an ordinance to stop the discrimination against those who tested positive for the coronavirus. “All we … need is your respect, compassion and understanding,” she said.
Fight not over
Padolina is worried about his family being shunned by the public.
“Yes, I am a nurse and I am Patient 33 of Nueva Ecija and I am not ashamed of it,” he said in a social media post. “Please don’t add to the burden of families with infected patients. Tragedy has struck their lives because no one wants to be contaminated.”
Padolina was exposed to the virus when he assisted a patient in PJGMRMC, a referral hospital for COVID-19 cases in Cabanatuan.
“Bringing home a disease is what scares most front-liners,” he said. For this reason, he decided not to tell his family about his assignment so they would not worry about him.
“I never exposed my family nor did I infect my siblings, one of them a nurse while the other a midwife. I did not infect a cousin who is a pharmacist. We did not cross paths at the hospital because COVID-19 treatment areas are off-limits. So if you need to talk about me, leave my family out of it,” he said.
Should he recover, Padolina informed the hospital about his willingness to return to the front line. “My fight is not yet over. I’ll come back strong.” INQ
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