Next COVID-19 surge is scary

Published August 1, 2020, 1:24 PM

by Gabriela Baron & Analou De Vera

Exhausted, overwhelmed healthcare workers seek return of NCR to ECQ

Healthcare workers – exhausted and overwhelmed by the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients needing hospital care – are urging the government to shift the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) back to the stricter Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks.


“The progressive lifting of quarantine has inadvertently fueled public misconception that the pandemic is getting better… In fact, if we leave our guards down, the next [COVID-19] surge nakakatakot po siyang isipin (is scary),” Dr. Lei Camiling, a member of the Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians (PSPHP), warned.

“(Ang) gusto natin iparating sa lahat ay ang healthcare natin ngayon, lalung-lalo na kaming mga frontliners ay talagang napapagod na (What we
want to convey to everyone is that our healthcare (system) now, especially we, the frontliners, are really exhausted). We are being overwhelmed… We are just asking for a time out,” said Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Ma. Encarnita Limpin in a media briefing.

“Two weeks ang hinihingi lang ho namin para makahinga at makapagisip po tayo para paano ba talaga natin makokontrol ang spread ng infection na ito (We are only asking for two weeks so that we can breathe and think solutions on how we can control the spread of this infection),” added Limpin.

A shade under 100,000 cases

In the Department of Health’s August 1 bulletin, the country now has a total of 98,232 COVID-19 cases after 4,963 new infections were recorded. It was the second straight day that the country recorded over 4,000 new cases.

The Philippines is by now ranked first in the list of countries in the Western Pacific Region with the most number of cases, according to the situational report of the World Health Organization.

Behind the Philippines is China with 87,956 cases as of July 31. The COVID-19 was first detected in China in December last year.

Senators back appeal

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said the request of health workers is a valid request that Malacañang should seriously consider.

“Putting human lives above all considerations is a no-brainer, given the choice,” Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, said.

“What is important is to prevent an obvious pattern of upsurge in the daily coronavirus infection,” he stressed.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III concurred with the view of Lacson.

Biggest jump in cases

In July, the Philippines recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID-19 deaths in Southeast Asia and the biggest single-day increase in confirmed infections, after government eased quarantine restrictions to revive the economy. On Friday, the Department of Health reported 4,063 new cases bringing the total confirmed cases to 93,354 as of July 31.

“Dito sa pag-modify ng ECQ medyo umangat na ang tao na nagkakaroon ng COVID-19. At mas nakita natin ang pagdami ng spread noong nag-GCQ (general community quarantine) na tayo (When they declared a modified ECQ, we noticed a rise in COVID-19 cases. And we saw widespread transmissions when we were placed under GCQ),” Dr. Maricar Limpin, Vice President of the Philippine College of Physicians told DZMM Teleradyo.

“Eto ang pinakakinatatakutan namin, baka dumating tayo sa punto na mapagod na yung mga nasa ospital na syang last line of defense natin. Mawawalan ng serbisyo sa atin mamamayang Pilipino, pakiusap sana namin, wag naman sana i-relax pa ang community quarantine. Kung pwede lang sana ibalik Metro Manila sa ECQ [kahit dalawang linggo], (This is what we fear most, that we will get to a point where our frontliners in the hospital who are our last line of defense will tire out. There will be no one to serve the patients in the hospitals. That is why we are appealing to the government not to relax the community quarantine. If possible, please revert Metro Manila to ECQ even for just two weeks),” she added.

During the ECQ, Limpin said, the country recorded the lowest COVID-19 cases daily and the movement of people were more controlled.

‘Listen to us’

“Ang hinihiling sana namin, kahit po siguro panandalian lang bigyan kami ng breathing space. Kasi kami po ang naririyan sa battlefield e. Kami po yung humaharap at nakakakita ng nangyayari, so sana po pakinggan kami ng gobyerno (What we are asking is to give us some breathing space. Because we are the ones fighting in the battlefield. We are the ones facing and seeing what’s happening, so I hope the government will listen to us),” Limpin appealed.

Limpin said they fear the day when hospitals start turning away more patients because they are already at full capacity and healthcare workers are already “bogging down.”

“Ang pinakamahirap dyan, marami tayong itataboy na pasiyente dahil hindi na talaga kakayanin ng ospital na tumanggap pa ng higit sa kung anong meron tayo (The hardest part is when hospitals start turning away patients because they are already running at full capacity),” she noted.

The healthcare workers are not just exhausted physically but mentally as well, said Dr. Aileen Espina, another PSPHP member.

‘We also suffer’

“Kami pong mga medical professionals ay nagsa-suffer na rin po (We, the medical professionals, also suffer) so much from the mental burden of this pandemic. We have been in this fight since March… and we feel that we are nearing the end of our line. Kami po ay umaapela na tulungan din po kami (We are appealing that you help us as well),” she said.

Aside from being worn out, Limpin said that many healthcare workers are also being infected with COVID-19.

“Dapat po natin maintindihan na marami po sa mga healthcare workers ay naaapektuhan na rin, naiinfect ng COVID-19 and a number of them nalalagay po sila sa ICU at nalalagay po sila sa respirator. Itong mga nakaraang linggo, nakakakita po kami ng mga namamatay na naman (We must understand that many healthcare workers are also infected by COVID-19 and a number of them are placed in the ICU and respirator. In recent weeks, we have been seeing more deaths),” Limpin said.

Tested positive for COVID-19. Of these, 4,490 have recovered, 38 have died and 293 are active cases.

A time to rethink

Limpin said that revering the NCR to ECQ will give the government and
other stakeholders a time to rethink the different policies and to come up with a more “comprehensive strategy” to curb the rising number of infections.

“Gusto kong idiin na ang nakikita natin na pagdami ng nagkakasakit sa COVID-19 ay nangangahulugan na hindi effective ang mga preventive measures natin. Huwag po tayong magbulag-bulagan sa katotohanan (I would like to emphasize that the increase in the number of COVID-19 patients means that our preventive measures are not that effective. Let us not be blind to the truth),” she said.

“Hindi po kami nakikipaglaban sa gobyerno. Baka akalain ng iba na nakikipaglaban kami, in fact, we are one with government dito sa giyera na ito (We are not fighting the government. In fact, we are one with the government in this war against COVID-19),” she added.

Limpin sounded the alarm on the plan of the government to open up more businesses.

“Ang problem natin, nakikita natin na may balak pa silang maloosen up pa ang community quarantine, buksan pa ang ibang businesses. Eh padami na ng padami ang mga pasyente (The problem here is, we see that they still intend to loosen up the community quarantine, open other businesses, while the cases are increasing),” she said.

Shortage in doctors, nurses

The Department of Health ordered hospitals to increase COVID-19 bed capacity to address the surge in coronavirus cases. However, Limpid said it is not that easy because there is a shortage in doctors, nurses, and even ambulance drivers.

“Hindi lang yung numero lang ng available na beds ang ating titingnan. Titingnan din natin ang ating manggagawang pangkalusugan, kahit gustuhin po namin na i-increase ang beds kung wala naman tao na pwedeng magsilbi at tumingin sa mga Pilipino, paano namin tatanggapin yung mga pasiyenteng yan? (We should not just look at the number of available beds. We should also consider the situation of our healthcare workers, even if we want to increase our bed capacity, there’s no one to attend to them, how can we admit those patients?),” Limpin added.

“Nakikita na namin yan, ilang beses na nagpupunta ang mga pasiyente sa mga ospital at ilang beses na rin silang nasasabihan na, closed na kami, punung-puno na kami, pumunta na lang kayo sa ibang ospital. At sasabihan kami, pang apat na kayo, pang lima na kayo at wala na kaming mapuntahan pa (We are already experiencing that. Patients wanting to be admitted to hospitals, and these hospitals turn them away because they are already full. Patients are advised to go to other hospitals but they tell us you’re the fourth or fifth hospital we’ve been to. We have nowhere else to go),” she added, describing the hapless condition at hospitals.

Limpin also appealed to the public to strictly follow minimun health protocols such as the proper wearing of face masks and observe physical distancing while in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Friday, President Duterte maintained the GCQ status in Metro Manila and 12 other areas in the country. (With a report from Mario B. Casayuran)