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Doctors say they never called for revolt

‘TIMEOUT’ Health workers from Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center demonstrate outside the hospital on Monday to protest the death of a coworker, Judyn Bonn Suerte, from COVID-19. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — The medical community on Monday said it had no intention of urging a revolt or threatening to leave patients when it sounded the alarm over the weekend that the health system was on the brink of collapse.

“[T]here was never a call for a revolt nor was there any threat of leaving patients on their own since our oath instructs us to first do no harm to anyone who needs our help,” the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) said.

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The group was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s calling out of health workers on Sunday for going public with their appeal for a return to a lockdown in Metro Manila instead of letting him know about it first.

Duterte said on Sunday night: “If you start a revolution, you will give me a free ticket to stage a counter-revolution.”

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‘A fighting chance’

But PCP president Mario Panaligan said in the group’s letter to the President, “It was not the intention of the media forum to humiliate the administration and the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). The call was for the DOH (Department of Health) and IATF to provide the health care workers a fighting chance in the war against COVID and prevent unnecessary fatalities—nothing more.”

While he granted the medical community’s request to tighten quarantine measures, the President took offense at the manner the appeal was made.

“There is no need for you and for the guys, 1,000 of you, telling us what to do publicly. You could have just written us a letter. We always follow what you tell us,” he said in a televised address.

A unified statement by the medical community said in part, “Our health-care workers are falling ill as they take care of patients, responding to the call of duty while battling the fear and anxiety COVID-19 brings. Our health-care workers are burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission.”

The statement was read by Dr. Jose Santiago Jr., president of the Philippine Medical Association.

Panaligan noted that the health professionals “highly appreciated” the administration’s “quick response” to their plea as he maintained that they “bear no ill will and have acted without malice” in their call.

“If we just knew that your office was not briefed in detail about the situation of our workers in both government and private hospitals, we would have sought a private audience with you to settle these issues and made things clear and right,” he said.

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PCP vice president Maricar Limpin added that the medical associations publicly aired their concern because the situation of the country’s health system required urgent action.

UNDER MONITORING At a hospital in Tondo, Manila, a health worker makes his rounds in an area reserved for patients being observed for possible coronavirus infection. —RICHARD A. REYES

“If we went through the usual process, how much time will it take us and for consequent action to be done? ” Limpin said in a phone interview.

“We are already in a situation wherein if cases continue to rise, our hospital system will collapse. Although we used an urgent measure to reach the President, we are still one with him in our goal to defeat this enemy,” she added.

Protesting health workers

In a related development, health workers of Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center in Manila staged a demonstration on Monday in front of the hospital after one of their fellow doctors, Judyn Bonn Suerte, died of COVID-19.

Cristy Donguines, president of the hospital’s union, said Suerte died on July 31 after he was brought to Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City, instead of being immediately treated at their hospital.

Suerte was among the 20 hospital employees infected with the contagious disease.

“It is painful to think but it is clear to us that this is a major negligence of the hospital management and the DOH itself due to their antihealth worker protocols,” Donguines said.

“We hold the DOH and the Duterte government accountable for their negligence and failure in handling this pandemic because, [now] more than ever, health workers’ lives matter,” the protesting health workers also said.

‘Do you hear the people sing’

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s dare of a revolution stemmed from a song from the musical “Les Miserables,” which went viral in recent days.

Several artists and personalities, critics of the administration, collaborated on a cover of “Do You Hear the People Sing,” which was streamed during the State of the Nation Address last week.

“He [Duterte] said, ‘Let’s not prolong the process. If you want to oust me, then do it,’” Roque said on Teleradyo.

He said the medical organizations’ letter was received by Malacañang at 4 p.m. on Saturday, but the health-care workers had already organized a public webinar earlier in the day.

With a report from Meg Adonia

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
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For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, medical frontliners, Philippine College of Physicians, Rodrigo Duterte
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