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Mga martir ng sambayanan, binigyang-pugay ng mga aktibista

Isang pagkilos sa Bantayog ng mga Bayani sa Quezon City ang isinagawa noong Lunes, Agosto 31, bilang paggunita sa Araw ng mga Bayani gayundin ay pagbibigay-pugay sa mga martir ng sambayanang Pilipino.

Kinilala sa nasabing pagkilos ang mga frontliner na nasawi laluna ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan dahil ng pandemya na COVID-19.

‘Para sa lahat ng nurse’

“Ang Filipino Nurses United (FNU) ay buong pusong nagpupugay sa lahat ng nurse sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo ngayong International Nurses’ Day. Saludo kami sa inyong matapang at masigasig na paglilingkod sa mga mamamayang biktima ng COVID-19. Naniniwala ang FNU na responsibilad ng pamahalaan na tiyakin ang inyong kaligtasan bilang mga frontline health workers. Ang laban ng mga nurse para sa kanilang karapatang mabuhay ay laban ng sambayanang Pilipino.”

Maristela Abenojar, RN, MAN
National President, Filipino Nurses United

Jo Maline Mamangun

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. #

Extending the Lockdown Should Be for Saving Lives

By Gene Alzona Nisperos, MD / Community Medicine Development Foundation

The extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) should not be a mere repeat of the month-long lockdown that was bereft of elements necessary to make containment measures effective and more palatable to Filipinos.

Saving lives remains the overarching objective in the fight against COVID-19 but, thus far, the actions taken by government lack both the transparency and comprehensiveness that express its serious intention towards this goal. Instead, there are issues of trust and credibility.

Even as the Department of Health (DOH) relented to the call for mass testing, the reported numbers do not add up, causing more confusion. The conflation between number of tests done and number of individuals tested does not help any. There is severe under-reporting, including those for persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs), that needs to be seriously addressed.

Further, local quarantine centers outside Metro Manila must also be established. The capacity of the healthcare delivery system under local government units (LGUs) should be raised to prepare for more COVID-19 cases. Enhancing the capacities of the barangays and the mobilization of barangay health emergency response teams (BHERTs) should go together with setting up local quarantine centers. The government should utilize all of its resources in health and create a more centralized command that will work closely with LGUs.

The DOH should protect health workers while actively recruiting and hiring more. Adequate health human resources are central in this campaign, being both the first and last lines of defense. Providing health workers with sufficient resources and personal protective equipment (PPEs), ensuring work safety, and monitoring their well being, including periodic testing, are absolutely essential.

As health personnel are dwindling, the DOH should actively recruit more to supplement the health workforce. The call for volunteers is inappropriate given the amount of money mobilized in the name of COVID-19. It will cost the government around 7.2 billion pesos to hire 10,000 doctors and 20,000 nurses for the next six months, and this amount represents just half of the Department of Tourism allocation. The least that this government can do for the health workers willing to put themselves on the line is to protect them and provide them with adequate remuneration.

As the war against COVID-19 is waged, patients who do not have COVID-19 but likewise need medical care must not be forgotten. Diseases like renal failure requiring dialysis or cancer that need chemotherapy will not wait. Yet these patients, especially the poor, have even less access to health services now. This too must be addressed.

Sadly, the DOH and the Duterte administration have shown no sense of urgency. Amidst a public health crisis, this is unacceptable and must change. The current extension must do more if the ECQ is to be meaningful and effective in saving lives.  

The urgent social imperatives experienced by the poor have not been addressed and the provision of adequate safety nets and social support has largely failed. People are experiencing hunger because the relief assistance did not come on time or was not enough for their families. 

Again, the government should take a more active role in ensuring that the food packs being distributed are sufficient. Government should also ensure access to basic utilities like water, which is needed to ensure hand washing and overall hygiene. Economic relief for those who lost income or were economically displaced must be given. This is the social determination of health. 

Most importantly, fundamental human rights must still be recognized and respected.

The ECQ is a health measure. It should not be used as an excuse to further impose repressive measures against the people. There should be no curtailment of basic freedoms and civil liberties. Rather than stifling dissent through threats, the government would do well to focus its energies on gaining the trust of the people.

The authoritarian behavior of the current dispensation should always be challenged. After all, it is a lockdown for health, not a political crackdown. The virus is the enemy, not the people. 

The containment of COVID-19 is a means to save lives. The extension of the ECQ should be towards this end. At this juncture, public health interventions are essential, social and economic aid is imperative, and resistance to tyranny necessary. #

–The author is a professor of community medicine at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

Pimentel’s caper and this administration’s true legacy

A senator of the Republic is currently reaping the whirlwind after announcing he learned he is positive of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) while accompanying his wife to a hospital delivery room. The Makati Medical Center is livid with Senator Koko Pimentel for what it described as a breach of Covid-19 home quarantine protocols. Pimentel is also being pilloried online, and understandably so.

Pimentel’s ill advised caper followed widespread denunciation of reports that senators, other high government officials and their families pressure the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to have their test kits processed ahead of everybody else’s, including those who display symptoms of the dreaded disease. Resentment is strong among the people who are being forced to observe the lockdown imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte despite the lack of a logical plan on how the lockdown should be implemented, save for the deployment of police and military personnel with assault rifles on checkpoints throughout Luzon island.

Pimentel’s gambol is not helping the government convince it is doing a good job in containing the spread of the virus. Aside from the utter lack of mass testing to pinpoint where the virus is spreading the fastest, what Pimentel and fellow senators Francis Tolentino, Imee Marcos, and others have demonstrated is their utter disregard for the people, particularly the poor, sick, elderly, and the frontline health workers who need to be tested first with the limited kits that are available.

This has led the people (at least those who have internet connections at home) to launch trending tweet campaigns that demand accountability, such that even this government’s well-oiled troll armies could no longer cover up. President Duterte’s obvious absence isn’t helping his spin doctors any. If he does go on television (often at ungodly hours of the evening) he could only manage rambling speeches that help very little in calming the nerves of an already nervous populace.

The populace’s nervousness is understandable. In communities, the people are afraid whether they would be able to feed themselves or whether there are still food items to be bought until the month-long lockdown ends. The fact that they are also humiliated—such as in Parañaque where those suspected of violating the so-called community quarantine are tortured by being forced to sit under the heat of the unrelenting sun or are harshly and publicly berated—contribute to the growing resentment.

I was in Switzerland and The Netherlands when the Covid-19 pandemic shifted to the region as its new epi-center earlier this month. Countries were also closing their borders and lockdowns were imposed one after the other. But there are no checkpoints in communities and the police do not carry assault rifles to terrorize the people into staying indoors. Only food stores and pharmacies are allowed to remain open but, pretty much, the governments rely on their citizens to comply with self-quarantine requests without unnecessary force. When I arrived back here, all I saw is the overwhelming exercise of state power through the police and the military. Even those who need to be at work because they are real frontliners in the fight against the virus are finding it hard to do their jobs because of the overly-strict and illogical edict of banning all forms of transport.

The Covid-19 crisis is the Duterte government’s Mamasapano and Hello, Garci crises of the past two administrations. If it slides through this one, it would only be through the heroism of the frontliners (doctors, nurses, hospitals, relief and emergency workers, and others) who battle through despite lack of supplies, absence of clear directions and plans, and even through thick-headedness and cheekiness of the likes of Pimentel. How this administration runs around like a headless chicken, albeit full-battle geared, in one of the country’s direst moments is turning out to be its true legacy to the people. #