Cainta hospital exec sued for negligence over nurse’s death
The chief of Cainta Municipal Hospital (CMH) in Rizal province is facing a complaint for negligence over the death of a coronavirus-infected nurse in July.
The case, filed by the nurse’s daughter in the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday, was the first of such nature to underscore the plight of health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, said a legal advocacy group assisting the family.
In a 20-page administrative complaint, Mary Joie Cruz, daughter of pediatric ward nurse Ma. Theresa Cruz, 47, said CMH chief, Dr. Antonio Jayson Sierra, was liable for gross neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming of a public officer, in relation to her mother’s death on July 22, or three days before the nurse’s test result came out showing that she was infected with COVID-19.
Sierra, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said he wished to answer the “allegations” but pointed out that “no one wanted her to die,” especially since she was a staff member of his hospital.
Sierra denied neglecting his hospital staff, even as Joie claimed that Sierra was “dismissive” of her mother’s plea for a COVID-19 test “on three occasions” after the nurse was exposed to an infected patient.
The family’s lawyer, Ansheline Bacudio, of the nonprofit Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, said: “We cannot say that the respondent (Sierra) is directly liable for her death since the cause of death is due to COVID-19. What we can seek accountability for is neglect of duty of the hospital chief to enforce health standards issued by the DOH (Department of Health) and his disrespectful treatment toward the deceased front-liner.”
Joie said her mother had to purchase her own personal protective equipment when none of those provided by the government fitted her and was allegedly “chastised and berated” whenever she expressed concerns over the hospital’s treatment of its personnel.
“On Aug. 13, I was also informed by [the DOH] that the death of my mother, a front-liner, was not reported to the Epidemiology Bureau,” Joie said.
Call to protect
The nurse’s death, among the 21 COVID-19 fatalities recorded in Cainta as of Oct. 6, drew public attention after Joie wrote an open letter stating that the family was able to claim only P7,000 in hazard pay for her mother’s 33 days of work during the strict quarantine.
The COVID-19 hazard pay, based on Administrative Order No. 26, was set at a maximum of P500 a day, which means it could go lower depending on the financial capacity of the local government. In the case of Cainta, the hazard pay was pegged at P300 a day.
Cruz, who was already receiving a regular hazard pay at P240 a day before the pandemic, was paid an additional P60 a day for her work in the weeks leading to her death.
The DOH provided a P1-million compensation to medical front-line workers who died during the pandemic, while the Cainta municipal government gave P50,000. Cruz’s family had received both amounts.
But Bacudio said they wanted an investigation “not only for this particular case.”
“This is a call to protect [and] prioritize the front-liners in this fight against the pandemic,” she said in a text message.
“When my mother’s story was put on the national limelight, we received hundreds of messages of support and calls from government officials extending their help and condolences. But what was truly moving for me was how my mother’s story inspired friends and strangers to rally for the same cause and to take action,” Joie said.
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