By Jel Santos and Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Makati Medical Center (MMC) on Wednesday night denounced the “irresponsible and reckless action” of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who has tested positive for COVID-19, for accompanying his pregnant wife to their hospital.
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MMC said Pimentel brought his wife in on Tuesday night (March 24) for delivery via caesarean section, breaching the strict infection and containment protocols of the MMC Delivery Room (MMC-DR).
“We denounce the irresponsible and reckless act of the senator. He added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond in its most competent and aggressive manner to cope with the daunting challenges of this COVID-19 outbreak,” Dr. Saturnino Javier, MMC medical director, said in a statement released in the hospital’s Facebook page.
For his part, Sen. Koko Pimentel apologized to MMC in an interview with CNN Philippines, also on Wednesday night.
"I am very sorry that this thing happened," the senator said.
He also appealed for understanding following the backlash on his decision to accompany his pregnant wife to MMC despite having undergone COVID-19 testing.
In an interview with GMA News' 24 Oras, Pimentel said he "beg for the understanding of everybody."
He maintained that he has been complying with the government's quarantine measures against COVID-19 and has since refrained from "non-essential movements."
He, however, viewed as important going with his wife, Kathryna, to MMC on Tuesday night as she was scheduled to give birth to their daughter on Wednesday morning.
"Manganganak ang misis ko. So sa mata ko, this is an essential movement, kasi manganganak eh, so sino sasama manganganak na misis kung hindi si mister?” Pimentel explained.
(My wife is giving birth. To me, this is an essential movement, because she will give birth, so who else will accompany a pregnant wife besides her husband?)
‘Created another problem’
In his statement, Javier also said: “By his actions, contributed no solution. In fact, he created another problem—for Makati Medical Center, the very institution which embraced his wife for obstetric care.”
MMC pointed out that the senator exposed health care workers to possible infection with COVID-19, adding that the entire MMC-DR had to undergo decontamination and disinfection.
“As a result, a number of our nurses and doctors may need to be quarantined which will further deplete the dwindling workforce of the hospital.”
According to the hospital, the involved healthcare workers have been identified, evaluated, and will be quarantined.
Javier also said the MMC-DR can now be used as it has already been disinfected and decontaminated.
Pimentel reiterated that he only found out about his test result when he was already at the hospital.
Earlier, he said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) called to inform him that he was COVID-19 positive around 9 p.m. By that time, Kathryna was already in MMC's examination room.
Pimentel said he left the hospital after telling his wife about his test result.
"Sabi niya, you must leave. Umalis naman po ako after explaining to my wife. Kailangan kong ipaliwanag sa kanya, siyempre medyo anxious din 'yong tao dahil manganganak na sana the following morning," he recalled.
(She told me, you must leave. I left after explaining to my wife. I needed to explain to her since she was anxious because she was going to give birth the next morning.)
"Even 'yong kilos ko sa hospital, ano lang eh: Kwarto, corridor na umupo ako sa labas ng examination room, which is very good, doon lang po, walkway, at of course 'yon pasok at labas ng hospital. So these are my only movements sa hospital," he added.
(Even my movements in the hospital were just: room, corridor where I sat outside the examination room, which is very good, just there, I walked, and when I came in and left the hospital.)
Pimentel said he was aware of the "general danger" since a Senate resource person last March 5 turned out to be a COVID-19 patient.
In confirming that he was COVID-19 positive, Pimentel said he first felt flu-like body pains around March 14.
He had 38-degree Celsius fever last March 18 and also experienced cough and "slight sore throat."
He said he is now feeling okay although "with the usual aches felt even without the flu," as well as colds. He also experiences "on and off" diarrhea.
MMC no longer accepting COVID-19 patients
On Tuesday afternoon, MMC announced that it will no longer be able to accommodate more COVID-19 patients as it has reached its full capacity.
The announcement was made after the hospital assessed its bed capacity, workforce availability, and supply of vital infection prevention equipment.
MMC said it is currently nursing nearly 70 in-patients, 15 percent of them in intensive care units, including those with COVID-19 and those awaiting test results.
“These patients include some of our frontline physicians, nurses, technicians , nursing aides, among others,” the hospital said earlier.