MANILA — Health workers said hospitals are on the brink of collapse amid the spike in coronavirus cases in 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.
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.
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.