Timeout!

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This was the cry of medical frontliners nationwide as they seek for a two-week lockdown to help them recuperate from the mental stress, tiredness, fear and anxiety that the health system may collapse if government fails to refine its pandemic control strategies.

Timeout! This was also the appeal from our local medical community whose request for a two-week reprieve through an ECQ was denied when that period could have given them a chance to revisit health protocols and resolve the lack of medical staff in our hospitals because many of them have been exposed to the virus.

Timeout! This was also the cry of Bacolod Councilor Israel Salanga who is in charge of repatriated OFWs as we are running out of hotels and inns who will accept them. Even city quarantine facilities intended for LSIs and those who are positive are almost filled to capacity.

Many hospitals in Metro Manila, both private and public, have closed their doors to COVID -19 cases because the mandated bed-capacity for these patients are overbooked and many of their staff are either on quarantine or infected.

The last report from DOH showed that there are over 4,800 health workers infected with the virus nationwide and 38 deaths. Here, Riverside alone reported 15 staff are positive and they have yet to release the results of 64 others. Our provincial hospital also reported three doctors infected while others have yet to reveal the state they are in.

Despite the claims of the national government and DOH especially, that we should not worry as there are enough hospital beds for COVID cases, the Philippine College of Physicians reported that 71 percent of ICUs are filled up and if we are looking at 14-days of intubation for patients, anything can happen in the next two weeks as cases are reaching a high of 4,000 daily.

It is understandable to balance health and economy as what most of our fiscal managers and the business community are stating, but at the end of the day, when health facilities are overwhelmed and contagion becomes widespread, it’s a choice between lives and profit.

We now have 253 cases in Bacolod including babies. Over the weekend, we topped the number of cases in Western Visayas with 74 positives, more than 60 percent of which are OFWs who were supposedly tested before their return, yet still resulted positive upon arrival.

What is more worrisome is the revelation from Councilor Salanga that five hotels already backed out of accommodating these repatriates because of unpaid bills from OWWA amounting to at least P17 million.

Understandably so, these hotels are left with no recourse but to shut down their operations as they are left to fend with paying their employees and feeding the repatriates. These hotels took the risk when government appealed to them to take in OFWs. But to continue shelling out money without hope in sight on when they are going to get paid, no one can fault them for closing shop.

Hmm…So where are the billions of dollars in loan made by the national government supposedly for the pandemic?

Schools that are mostly used by LSIs, at least those who could not afford to be quarantined in hotels on self-pay, are also filled to the brim because most local transmission patients are also isolated in these facilities.

An appeal from the Philippine Medical Society said “our health-care workers are falling ill as they take care of patients, responding to the call of duty while battling the fear and anxiety COVID-19 brings. Our health-care workers are burnt out with the seemingly endless number of patients trooping to our hospitals for emergency care and admission. We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action thus we propose the two-week ECQ be used as ‘time out’ to refine our pandemic control strategies.”

DOH Sec. Francisco Duque immediately committed to “do more” for the health workers such as facilitate lodging, transportation, PPEs and food. This guy is so detached from reality. Worse is, he even made it appear that the medical community is just asking to be given some importance which can be resolved by free food, transpo and lodging.

When in effect, the doctors are fearful that another two weeks of rising cases and with hospitals and staff overworked, can lead to a collapse of the entire health system. If Duque has some sense of shame, he should resign and that may be the first step to heal the entire health system.

If we are more discerning of what the doctors are asking, they are looking after the interests of all because truth is, the moment all hell breaks loose, what economy will we be talking about? As the doctors said in their appeal, “we need healthy people to reinvigorate our economy.”

Timeout! If we can’t give them that, then at least ensure that minimum health protocols are strictly enforced. And beyond what government is doing, or the lack of it, we, the people, have to cooperate if we want to survive this pandemic as a nation.*

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