Making use of a tone that very likely echoes the collective exhaustion and frustration within its premises, Makati Medical Center (MMC) today denounced the actions of incumbent Sen. Koko Pimentel who visited the hospital last night. In the strongly worded statement signed by the hospital’s medical director Dr. Saturnino P. Javier, the senator allegedly breached the center’s strict infection and containment protocols and placed those present in serious harm’s way.
The news of the Senator testing positive for COVID-19 made the rounds of social media earlier today. While Pimentel apparently asked for prayers upon learning of his status, many responded with alarm because of his presence at MMC. Based on Department of Health protocols, Persons Under Investigation (PUI) such as Pimentel must complete a 14-day quarantine period. Pimentel says that he has been on quarantine since the last day of session on March 11.
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He was in Makati Med to accompany his wife Kathryna, who was due to give birth via cesarean section. “Yes [I was with her] as she was asked to give birth this morning. I received the call from RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) when I was already in the hospital last night, hence I left immediately," he explained to reporters in a text message. The senator went on to say in a subsequent radio interview that he feels discriminated against and appeals for understanding in the wake of the bashing he is receiving.
“By being in MMC, Senator Pimentel violated his Home Quarantine Protocol, entered the premises of the MMC-DR, thus, unduly exposed healthcare workers to possible infection,” the MMC statement said. “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.”
An added burden
Describing what the Senator has done as “irresponsible” and “reckless,” Dr. Javier said that this has placed an added burden to the hospital and its effort to respond to the challenges of the outbreak. Casting doubts on the Senator’s previous calls to observe medical protocols, the medical director implied that the 56-year-old lawmaker should have known better. “His admonition for everyone to observe social distancing, enhanced community quarantine measures, washing of hands and personal hygiene are nothing but empty rhetoric because he himself violated all those,” he said in the statement.
Pimentel’s wife Kathryna defended her husband’s action in a text message that was shared to journalist Arnold Clavio’s Instagram account, which was posted before MMC released their statement. She insisted the senator never stepped inside the hospital’s delivery room. But many point out on social media that it doesn’t matter which part of the hospital the senator was in, he still broke protocol by leaving his house.
Dr. Javier assured the public that the MMC Delivery Room Complex has been decontaminated and disinfected and is now ready for use. The healthcare workers involved have also been identified, evaluated, and will be quarantined should the risk of exposure warrant it.
“We fervently pray that none of our healthcare staff will acquire the viral infection,” the doctor said at the end of the statement. “As we make this wish, we urge everyone to do his share in quelling the spread of this infection—especially our nation’s duly elected leaders.”