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Health workers say hospitals ‘on the brink of collapse’

By Joseph Cuevas

Health workers said hospitals are on the brink of collapse amid the spike in new number of coronavirus cases around the country.

In a press conference Tuesday, April 7, Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) members said hospitals are overwhelmed with new patients every day and employees themselves are falling ill from the virus.

A number of health workers also resigned or have taken early retirement options due to fear, fatigue, frustration and severe demoralization, AHW said.

Emergency rooms, intensive care units, wards, isolation facilities of private and public hospitals are overcrowded and overflowing, the group said, while tents or modular container vans are full of patients waiting admission.

“Even ordinary rooms are now being used as COVID wards. Outpatient departments are closed in most hospitals and many patients are being bumped off,” the group added.

AHW said understaffing schemes by hospitals force health workers to be on duty for at least 12 hours or even 24 hours while some hospitals only have skeletal forces.

Contractualization in some hospitals, such as job order and contract of services especially for nurses, has worsened during the pandemic, AHW revealed.

AHW officer Sean Velchez said 117 out of 180 Philippine Orthopedic Center employees are Covid-positive.

Screenshot of the AHW=led online press conference.

Delayed benefits and other issues

Union officers of the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and National Kidney and Transplant Institute said their hazard pay, performance bonus and health risk allowances have been delayed since 2019.

Meal and transportation allowances are also on hold after the Department of Health (DOH) recalled funds for said benefits, the unions said.

Cristy Donguines of the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Hospital said medical equipment like personal protective gears and gloves as well as medical supplies like oxygen tanks and others are also on low supply.

Philippine General Hospital’s Karen Faurillo complained of failed contact tracing as well as lack of mass testing, isolation and treatment for health workers.

Kodao file photo of an AHW protest action. (Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Collapsing health care system

Solidarity of Health Advocates and Personnel for a Unified Plan to Defeat COVID-19 (SHAPE-UP) convenor Dr. Eleanor Jara revealed that primary and secondary health care systems are also failing to help the spread of the virus.

Jara said important community level Covid interventions such as mass testing, contact tracing, equipped quarantine and isolation facilities are inadequate.

Jara, whose husband was among the first medical workers lost to Covid in 2020, said the situation will only worsen as the Department of Health continues to deny government’s inept and failed Covid response.

“The government must also held accountable for the death of 97 health workers since the pandemic and the rising cases of Covid-19 among health workers and people,” she said.

The AHW demanded an overhaul of the inter-agency task force’s militaristic response to the pandemic as well as the resignation of health secretary Francisco Duque.

The group said the Rodrigo Duterte government must also be held accountable for its failed pandemic response. #

‘Hindi ECQ ang solusyon sa pagdami ng COVID cases’

“Hindi ECQ ang solusyon sa pagdami ng COVID cases sa ngayon kundi [ang] paghigpit sa preventive measures. Palitan na ang mga bumubuo ng IATF at ilagay ang mga health expert at mga scientist para magkaroon ng scientific at comprehensive na plano para masugpo itong COVID-19 na ito. Solusyong medikal, hindi militar!Robert Mendoza, National President, Alliance of Health Workers

Governor apologizes after accusing teachers of ‘doing nothing’

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba was forced to issue an apology following his accusation that teachers are doing less work with the government’s blended learning scheme.

Mamba told radio station DZRH Saturday that “teachers are simply enjoying themselves at home and receiving salaries without working.”

Mamba added that he thinks that the government is being shortchanged and hinted that teachers’ salaries may be slashed soon.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) president Joselyn Fegalan said Mamba had no right to accuse teachers of doing less work as teachers are in fact burdened by greater workload due to the Department of Education’s blended learning scheme.

“Teachers deserve an apology. You go back to that radio station and say sorry,” Fegalan said.

Mamba is ignorant of the situation of teachers even in his home province, ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio added.

“It seems he does not know that many teachers spend their already inadequate salaries to buy paper, laptops, printers and ink because the government has yet to fully provide these,” he said.

“Gov, it’s World Teachers Day on Monday (today, October 5) and this is your message to them? Is this how you thank them?” Basilio asked.

The Student Council of the University of the Philippines College of Education also condemned Mamba’s remarks as “patently insensitive, infuriating and disrespectful of the teachers’ effort to educate amid the pandemic.”

‘Just being fatherly’

Mamba in a statement Sunday he is sorry and did not mean to hurt any teacher, adding he wanted to challenge everyone with his remarks.

In another DZRH interview Sunday, Mamba said he has high regard for teachers as shown by his administration’s involvement of teachers in provincial government projects.

Mamba added he was just being fatherly in lecturing just as he was in admitting mistakes.

A source from Mamba’s camp told Kodao that the interviewer did not give the governor a chance to fully explain what he meant as the interview was at its end. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘We are all victims of the gross neglect of the DOH and Duterte administration’

“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

‘We urge the government to address our demands before it’s too late’

“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

‘Look into the plight of our fellow 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.
National President,
Alliance of Health Workers

PH 0 of 6 in WHO condition for ending COVID lockdown

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)

Health group demands mandatory mass testing for all health workers

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.

AHW photo

“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. #

KODAO KLASIK: Diagnosing Poverty, Building Community

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.

Doctor, family receive death threats

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.

The death threat received by Nisperos Monday night. It was redacted to hide the condominium’s address and the date when the perpetrators said they will carry out the attack.

“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.)

The threat received by Nisperos Tuesday morning.

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)