“We are saddened and angered by what happened to our dear colleague and other health workers who died fighting COVID-19. We are all victims of the gross neglect of the DOH and Duterte administration. This administration does not value health workers because even in (Duterte’s) 5th State of the Nation Address, he still did not lay down comprehensive, systematic and scientific measures on how to defeat the virus.” — Cristy Donguines, President, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-Alliance of Health Workers
“They cannot blame many health workers for not applying for work because we are aware that the DOH and the Duterte administration do not care about our welfare. Many have resigned from their post because, for a long time, we are always neglected. We urge the government to increase the salaries of health workers, regularize contractuals and address our demands before it’s too late.” — Robert Mendoza, President, Alliance of Health Workers
“Today, Health Workers’ Day, we call on the government to look into the plight of our fellow health workers and the public hospitals. We reiterate our demand to increase the public health system budget to at least 5% of the GDP as WHO recommends. This will make health care available to the people and will slowdown the COVID-19 infections.”
Robert Mendoza, RM.
Alliance of Health Workers
By Sanaf Marcelo
A community medicine expert said that the Philippines scores zero out of six in the World Health Organization (WHO) list of conditions for ending coronavirus lockdowns.
University of the Philippines College of Medicine Assistant Professor Gene Nisperos told an online forum organized by the health group Second Opinion PH last Thursday, April 23, that the Philippines is failing to meet any of the conditions set by the global health organization for lifting lockdowns aimed at reversing the pandemic.
Nisperos said the way heath workers continue to be at risk indicates how the Philippines is so far failing to turn the tide against the disease.
“The Department of Health (DOH) has reported that there are 1,062 health workers infected by the COVID-19 which, at 13%, is the highest in Asia,” Nisperos said.
In its Covid-19 strategy update published last April 14, the WHO said the following must be met before governments could think about lifting their imposed lockdown:
1. Disease transmission is under control;
2. Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”;
3. Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes;
4. Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures;
5. The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”; and
6. Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal.
“We must admit that our country is one of the countries that have a weak health system even if the Department of Health keeps denying it,” Nisperos added.
Sean Velchez, a nurse at the Philippine Orthopedic Center, said that it looks like the government is still on Day One of its lockdown even if the enhanced community quarantine in wide areas throughout the country has already passed its 38th day.
‘We in the hospitals are mainly dependent on the PPEs and medicine donations from the private sector because the government cannot provide enough protective equipment for the health workers,” Velchez said.
The two health workers urged the DOH to take the lead role in directing the country’s response to the pandemic and cease from simply listening to directives from politicians.
DOH should be more proactive and must have the plans and recommendations for this to fight COVID-19, they said.
Gov’t extends ECQ to May 15
Meanwhile, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the government has decided to extend the ECQ to 15 more days when the first extension expires on April 30.
Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte is extending the ECQ on the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog to May 15.
Roque said Duterte agreed with the recommendations submitted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to also extend the lockdown on other high-risk areas in Luzon, such as Pangasinan, Benguet, Mindoro island, Albay and Catanduanes.
ECQs are also being imposed in Antique, Iloilo, Cebu and Cebu City, Aklan and Capiz in the Visayas and Davao del Norte, Davao City and Davao de Oro in Mindanao. # (With reports from R. Villanueva)
By Joseph Cuevas
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) demanded from the Duterte administration and the Department of Health (DOH) the implementation of free mandatory Coronavirus mass testing for all health workers in public and private hospitals and health facilities.
In a statement, AHW president Robert Mendoza said they disagree with the statement issued by the DOH last Tuesday that only patients and healthcare workers who exhibit mild, severe and critical symptoms would be prioritized in the expanded mass testing.
Mendoza said that as front liners health workers should be checked regularly and must be coronavirus free since they are the ones taking care of patients.
“We are very much worried and alarmed about the health condition of our fellow heath workers. Mostly, those health workers who died were infected due to lack of personal protective equipment, aggravated by 12 hours duty a day for 7 to 8 days,” Mendoza said.
“The government must immediately distribute PPE to ensure and protect health workers, hire and train more additional permanent health workers, and increase the public hospital budget,” he added.
Mendoza also urges DOH to immediately issue directives to conduct free mandatory mass testing among hospital workers in public and private hospitals and health facilities to help contain the spread of the virus as well as immediately implement medical interventions.
AHW also asked the government to implement mass testing at the barangay level and provide proper orientation and protective gear to all barangay health workers (BHW) accompanied by a nurse to do the house to house inspection to ensure that all COVID-19 patients will be traced and treated.
DOH reported that there are 766 health workers who tested positive, 339 of whom are doctors while 342 are nurses.
Twenty two health workers have succumbed to the disease.
The Philippines has recorded 5878 cases of the coronavirus disease, 387 of which resulted in deaths, giving the country the worst record in Southeast Asia and the highest percentage of health worker fatalities in the world. #
In the 1990s, young medical doctors Julie Caguiat and Gene Nisperos spent the first years of their practice helping poor peasants and indigenous peoples in the hinterlands of Bukidnon Province. Here is a video of their work, produced by Kodao for the Belgian humanitarian organization Intal.
Even then, Doctors Caguiat and Nisperos were threatened by the military for their advocacy and humanitarian work. Last Monday and Tuesday, Caguiat and Nisperos became victims of death threats anew for their continuing advocacy on community medicine and higher health budget.
Kodao is reposting this video to show who the perpetrators are threatening with death.
An activist doctor and professor received death threats against himself and his family mere hours after joining a rally demanding a bigger 2020 budget for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Dr. Gene Nisperos, president of the All UP Academic Employees Union-Manila Chapter (AUPAEU-Manila), received a text message Monday night, October 21, saying he and his family would be killed soon.
“I know where your condominium is. We will get your family one by one…You are dead by…including your children and wife,” the message in part said.
The message was sent by an unidentified person through mobile phone number +639567955995.
Nisperos told Kodao he blames the climate of violence created by the Rodrigo Duterte government against those who seek substantial reforms and genuine change in Philippine society for the latest threats against him and his wife, also a doctor.
“The climate under the Duterte government has fostered the kind of violence inflicted on those who stand for what is just and right. Sa panahon ngayon, ang gumawa ng kabutihan at manindigan sa tama ang siyang tinutugis. Naghahasik na takot dahil sa takot dinadaan ang pamumuno. Dapat ito labanan. Sa lahat ng anyo. Sa lahat ng pagkakataon,” Nisperos said. (In these times, those who do good and stand for what is right are persecuted. It is sowing fear because it rules by fear. This must be opposed in whatever form and whenever it occurs.)
As he was being interviewed by Kodao online, Nisperos received another threat from the same number Tuesday morning.
He however clarified that it was not him who issued the challenge to government officials to line up at government hospitals.
“It was at a different press conference by other doctors who challenged (Department of Health secretary Francisco) Duque and other government officials to line up at government hospitals. I was not even there,” Nisperos clarified.
Nisperos spoke at a rally at the PGH lobby last Monday, demanding a P10 billion budget for the country’s premiere government hospital.
A graduate of UP College of Medicine’s prestigious Intarmed program, Nisperos and wife, Dr. Julie Caguiat, served as community doctors in Mindanao before returning to Metro Manila to advocate for community-based health programs on the national level.
Nisperos is a professor at their alma mater.
Duterte government as suspects
The AUPAEU-Manila condemned the most recent death threats against Nisperos and family.
“Following months of profiling, red-tagging, vilification, threats, and harassment of members in other AUPAEU chapters, the Union sees this as a continuation of the attacks to activists, teachers, and unionists perpetuated by State security forces under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte,” the group said.
“This threat comes at a time when the AUPAEU-Manila is calling on all faculty, administrative staff, and REPS of the university to unite against the impending budget cut for the University of the Philippines, particularly on the UP Manila and Philippine General Hospital (PGH), regularization of contractual workers, among others,” it added.
The union said the threats are attempts to sow fear among teachers and unionists who assert for their rights and to fight for a higher state subsidy for social services such as education and health.
“[O]ur Union will not tremble in the face of vicious repressive measures and increasingly fascist attacks by this administration,” AUPAEU-Manila said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Nag-protesta ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan, nurse at doktor sa Mendiola sa Maynila para tutulan ang malaking budget cut at manawagan ng dagdag sahod noong Oktubre 15. Binatikos nila ang P10 bilyon na budget cut sa sektor para sa 2020.
Ayon sa Alliance of Health Workers, tuluyan nang tinalikuran ng gobyerno ang obligasyon nito na bigyan ng maayos at abot-kayang serbisyong medikal ang taumbayan. Taun-taon ay binabawasan ang budget sa mga serbisyo habang pinalalaki ang budget sa pambansang depensa at pork barrel ng mga kongresista.
Nanawagan din sila na taasan ang sahod ng mga manggagawang pangkalusugan sa P16,000 sa minimum kada buwan, P30,000 para sa mga nurse at P80,000 para sa mga doktor. (Background music: News background / Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas-Kodao)
Isang protesta sa harapan ng ospital ang ikinasa ng mga empleyado ng National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTIEA)-Alliance of Health Workers bilang tugon sa ginawang pagtanggal sa kanilang mga benepisyo simula noong Setyembre 13.
Ayon sa NKTIEA, inalis ng management ang rice and groceries subsidy na dekada na nilang natatamasa. Gayundin ay binawasan ang Philhealth Sharing Benefit mula P30,000 noong 2018 ay ginawa na lamang itong P12,000 ngayong taon. Naniniwala sila na ang pagtatanggal at pagbawas ng mga benepisyo ay pag-atake sa kanilang kabuhayan bilang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan.
Dagdag nila, napakalaki ang kinikita ng ospital dahil ito ay halos pribadisado na samantalang kakarampot naman ang kanilang sahod kumpara sa pagtaas ng mga presyo ng bilihin at serbisyo. (Music: News Background Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)
Public health workers trooped to the Department of Health headquarters in downtown Manila May 7 to commemorate National Health Workers’ Day with a protest rally.
Calling for free health service for the people and increased salaries, the workers slammed the Rodrigo Duterte regime for implementing contractualization in the health sector.