COVID 'support group' formed for DENR workers by disease survivors

Published May 6, 2021, 12:22 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda has organized a “support group” for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the agency using helpful inputs from survivors of the dreaded illness, like himself.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda in his office during the May 5, 2021 Zoom meeting with fellow COVID-19 survivors. (Ellson Quismorio / MANILA BULLETIN)

An internal Zoom meeting attended by COVID-19 survivors and officials of DENR on Wednesday, May 5 served as the genesis of the informal group.

“We can start from this…50 tayo ngayon (there are 50 of us in this meeting). We might end up helping 5,000 of us in the future. Kailangan kapit-bisig tayo, tulong-tulong tayong lahat (Let’s cooperate with each other). We can surpass this,” Antiporda said.

As tangible assistance, Antiporda promised to keep around 100 “COVID kits” on standby for employees who might need them.

He expects that the number would suffice, at least initially, for the Strategic Communication and Initiatives Service (SCIS), Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns, Tayo and Kalikasan Campaign, and Action Hotline 8888, which are the offices under him.

He said each kit will contain an oximeter; thermal scanner; medicines and supplements like paracetamol, multivitamins, and Lianhua; hand sanitizers, and face masks, among other items that a potential COVID patient might need.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda listening to a COVID-19 survivor’s account of his ordeal. (Ellson A. Quismorio / MANILA BULLETIN)

Aside from this, Antiporda said that an important thing that must be provided to DENR workers amid the health crisis was 24/7 access to a doctor for medical consultation. He said this will give the employees peace of mind.

“Kahit paano magkaroon tayo ng tinatawag na hotline, na in case mayroon problema mayroon tayong doktor na tatawagan. Kahit hindi doktor ng DENR; pwede naman siguro ang DENR kumuha ng mga doktor sa labas who is familiar with COVID (We want to set up a hotline so that we’ll have a doctor to talk to in case there’s a problem. It doesn’t have to be an in-house doctor of the DENR; we can hire a doctor from outside who is familiar with COVID),” he said during the meeting.

“Only people who survived this COVID will tell you this…dahil ito yung naging problema namin. Isipin mo kung wala kang doktor na ma-text o matawagan. Eh di nabaliw nako nun (This was what we went through. I would’ve gone nuts if I didn’t have a doctor that I could text with or call),” Antiporda said, alluding to his episode with the disease.

Antiporda tested positive for COVID-19 last March 22. It took over a month before he could totally expell the new coronavirus from his body and be cleared to return to work.

Through the support group, the DENR official wants to get rid of the notion or fear that contracting COVID-19 would automatically spell one’s end. “Phone a friend, look for a COVID survivor that can give you good advice.”

“We’re here to encourage everybody to wake up and save our colleagues’ lives. Masakit na magbilang muna tayo ng bangkay bago tayo umaksyon. Aksiyunan na natin ito para makapagligtas tayo ng maraming buhay (It hurts that we had to count cadavers first before taking action. Let’s take action now so that we can save a lot of lives),” he underscored.

At least five COVID-19 survivors, Antiporda included, shared their experiences with the disease during the two-hour meeting.