Sounding distress call as health facilities, manpower are swamped, doctors lead groups seeking ECQ for ‘Mega Manila’

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STRESSING that “we are waging a losing battle against Covid-19”, exhausted medical professionals on Saturday called on the government to place Mega Manila under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) anew to let them “breathe” for a moment as health facilities are already overwhelmed and many of their colleagues are getting sick.

Nakikita [natin] natatalo na tayo sa battle na ito. Kailangan magtawag ng timeout para maka-regroup lahat ng nasa [We can see we are losing this battle. We need to call a timeout to regroup for all those in the] health sectors,” said Dr. Encarnita Limpin, Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) vice president.

In a letter to President Duterte, through National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, the medical community joined together in sounding “a distress signal to the nation: our health-care system has been overwhelmed.”

Dr. Mario Panaligan, PCP president

“We are waging a losing battle against Covid-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, cognitive plan of action. Hence, we, as your health-care frontliners, call on our national government to return Mega Manila to Enhanced Community Quarantine for a period of two weeks, from August 1 to 15,” Dr. Mario Panaligan, PCP president, said in a letter to Duterte dated August 1. The Mega Manila encompasses National Capital Region, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

In the letter, the group lamented, “Our health-care workers should not bear the burden of deciding who lives and who dies. If the health system collapses, it is ultimately the poor that is most affected.”

They also expressed reservation on the reopening of businesses like gyms, fitness centers, tutorial services, review centers, internet cafes, pet grooming services, and drive-in cinemas.

In an online press conference where they joined the PCP 24 groups representing various aspects of the health-care services proposed the two-week ECQ in Mega Manila and recommend that the following crises be addressed urgently:

  • Hospital workforce deficiency
  •  Failure of case finding and isolation
  • Failure of contact tracing and quarantine
  • Transportation safety
  • Workplace safety
  • Public compliance with self-protection
  • Social amelioration

Nakikita [natin] natatalo na tayo sa battle na ito. Kailangan magtawag ng timeout para maka-regroup lahat ng nasa health sectors.”

Dr. Encarnita Limpin, Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) vice president

‘We honor all your efforts’

For its part, the Department of Health (DOH) said it stands with the frontliners and acknowledges the sacrifices and challenges “whom we have been working with since the start of this pandemic.”

“We honor all your efforts,” the DOH said in a statement in response to the call of the PCP, adding that DOH is grateful to the medical societies for their continued trust in the department and for their support in resolving the ongoing health crisis.

“We support the call of our frontliners to ensure appropriate implementation of community quarantines to ensure the protection of our health workers, but while the government is taking the necessary actions to address the situation, we emphasize that it is also the duty of every citizen to ensure that our health system is not overwhelmed. With this, we continue to call on everyone to BIDA Solusyon,” the DOH said.

The DOH stressed that it welcomes “this opportunity to continuously work with the medical societies and our health-care workers on a united and strategic course of action to win the battle versus this pandemic.”

“Rest assured that DOH is leading in working together with the other agencies in supporting the HCWs [health-care workers] and our plight during this situation.

The DOH assured the public it is currently in dialogue with the medical frontliners to discuss the best steps forward, “and in so doing we will ensure to strike a balance among all the important factors that we have to take into account.”

Image credits: AP/Aaron Favila

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