Game of the generals

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A public health crisis will now be left at the hands of the generals as our city government deemed it wise to seek the assistance of the higher-ups in arresting the rising COVID cases in our locality.

Retired Gen. Roy Cimatu arrived yesterday along with Ret. Gen. Mel Feliciano. They were sent to oversee the Task Force COVID-19 in Cebu when it became the epicenter of the coronavirus in our country. With Negros Occidental placing second nationwide in COVID cases, the generals were deployed here, along with Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Michael Dino, to assess our situation.

What we feared the most is now here. We probably never imagined months ago that what happened in Cebu can happen here. Alas, it is very real. And with our health system on the brink of collapse, there is nothing we can do but leave it up to the generals.

National IATF chair, Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. is expected to come in the coming days and with him will be medical personnel from the government and military to augment our dwindling medical teams in almost all hospitals here.

This is quite ironic and a slap on our faces because months ago, when the crisis in Cebu was at its worse, we thumbed down the call to send them medical augmentation. And now, here we are crying for help before our health system bogs down.

There are so many “ifs” and “whys” but at this point, though many cringe at the thought of giving it all up to the generals, I find their presence comforting especially since Cimatu was able to deliver Cebu out of quagmire. If the generals can make the people heed the lockdown, that is way better than what has been happening.

The biggest “if” that is thrown at our officials was ignoring the call of a two-week timeout by the medical community because of the strong opposition from the business sector. If they listened to the medical experts, will we be in this situation?

It’s all water under the bridge though and right now, I will take my chances with the generals even if it means eventually seeing military tanks roaming around our city if the rise in cases will not be arrested.

Will the national government give in to Mayor Bing Leonardia’s request for 20 doctors, 150 nurses and 30 medical technologists? I doubt so since Iloilo City also needs augmentation and they have far more cases than Bacolod. But any help will do.

We cannot also fault with the medical frontliners who either resigned or gone AWOL even if it initially seems preposterous considering we are in a public health crisis. However, I was dumbfounded to learn from Dr. Leonard Baraquia who was interviewed yesterday, that among the reasons was that health workers are not automatically covered for hospitalization if they get infected, unless you are under a government health facility.

Dr. Leonard said that regular nurses take home P480 daily wage plus a ten percent hazard pay of P48. If one gets stricken by COVID or other illness and gets hospitalized for three weeks or so, their salaries cannot even cover their total bill. No wonder many of them resigned.

My niece, a medical technologist, is among those who is contemplating resigning, or may have resigned already. As she pointed out, they have not even asked for increase in compensation but they were simply hoping they would be covered. Apparently not so and it is suicide for them to continue exposing themselves when they know that at the end of the day, they will not be covered.

Dr. Leonard said that this is not just a medical issue but a social one and psychologically as well, for those assigned in COVID isolation areas as it can “get depressing.” He also advocates for stratification of patients and preventive treatment rather than the planned mass testing.

The rationale being, where will you isolate those who tested positive? Where is the center for asymptomatic and for the symptomatic? Where will the mild or the moderate cases be placed? Dr. Leonard is right in saying that we have a low mortality rate and if we can prevent admission level for our COVID cases, we will be able to surpass this.

These ideas have been thrown out in the open by medical experts before. However, because our officials have to look at the macro view rather than just the medical aspect, their recommendations have been set aside.

And now, we are in this state wherein we are at the mercy of the generals. But again, if our city has reached the point that it cannot anymore address the crisis without intervention from the national government, I welcome the generals to play their game and may they be successful in curbing the spread here.

Tomorrow we go on lockdown. What was initially two days for Bacolod may now turn into four days based on the latest advisory. With or without the prayer resolution that the city took so much time to debate about, it is time to really pray hard. God bless us all.*

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October 2020
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