By Raymund Antonio
When medical intern, Dr. Nick Tan, got the pull out order from his superiors, he could not immediately leave the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Tan could have decided to go home and take a much needed rest but he chose to stay put, no matter the cost, even if this could lead him falling into the enemy’s hands — the coronavirus disease.
“Kawawa po iyong mga residente, iyong mga frontliners na sobrang kaunti na po sila. Sobrang naipit po sila sa trabaho, tapos ipu-pull out pa kami,” Tan said in an interview aired over Vice President Leni Robredo’s radio show.
(The residents would suffer, the number of front liners is much less. They got stuck in work, then we will be pulled out.)
Tan was among the 137 of the 500 PGH interns who volunteered to remain on duty to augment the manpower needs at the state-run hospital in Manila.
It was the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges (APMC) that gave the order on March 14 to pull out all medical interns from various hospitals in Metro Manila in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The PGH has been designated by the Department of Health (DOH) as one of its COVID-19 referral hospitals in response to the virus outbreak.
With the rising number of COVID-19 patients, Tan knew all along the limitations faced by resident doctors and front liners.
He asked his mentors what he can do to help the patients and the remaining health workers in the hospital.
“They said, ‘Look for like-minded individuals.’ I asked myself, ‘How will I do it?’ Will I PM (personal message) all of them or do I do it in our thread? I asked them to message me,” Tan said.
Surprisingly, Tan got a positive response from his fellow interns.
“Within 30 minutes, I had 30 sympathizers or people with the same sentiments. Then within two hours, we were around 60. After 12 hours, we were 137,” he said.
Each of the volunteer interns were asked to seek permission from their parents and sign a waiver.
Knowing the risk they put themselves in, some of them backed out when their parents refused to put them in harm’s way.
“We had to secure parental consent. That’s our deal with the PGH administration. So, at least, those who are here on duty have parental consent,” he said.
Asked by Robredo if the PGH, being a COVID-19 hospital, expressed fear over their safety, Tan replied: “Yes. Super, ma’am. As in many are now having second thoughts.”
Growing in numbers
Seventy-seven more intern volunteers have signed up to work alongside other PGH front liners to combat the spread of the infectious disease in the country.
A week after they volunteered, Tan said, “Our current number is 214.”
Despite the risks of contracting the disease, the 214 interns are not at all discouraged.
They call themselves the COVID-19 front liners. (Raymund F. Antonio)