MANILA - Ever since cases of the novel coronavirus started to rapidly rise in the Philippines, Kath Valdez, along with her fellow nurses at Philippine General Hospital, were scared for their safety.
As a health care frontliner in PGH, she expected a number of critical patients to enter their hospital premises.
“A lot of us even experience anxiety attacks. Alam namin na national hospital kami and not too long, soon we will be handling COVID-19 patients. End referral hospital kami so we expect na we will get complicated patients," she told ABS-CBN News.
The daunting task placed on each health care worker in the Philippines is no easy task. Their lives and their families’ lives are always at risk 24/7.
But just like any other nurse or doctor out in the field, Valdez said she honored her responsibility.
“I think everyone is scared naman. We all are. But sometimes you just need to push through because this is the profession we chose. When I heard na may positive case na, siyempre all my workmates are in panic and anxious state," she said.
"As much as possible, I do my part to educate them and share what the research says kasi information is your power. If you know kung ano kinakalaban mo, it will be easier.”
After the first day of the community quarantine in Metro Manila passed, many nurses already felt the challenges outside the hospital. But Valdez and her fellow frontliners were not backing down from this crisis.
Valdez is part of the Philippine General Care Society, a mental health advocacy group that caters to fellow nurses at PGH.
As a practice of physical distancing, they made a digital community, an active online group composed of mental health advocates that aims to address the anxiety and stress faced by nurses during the pandemic.
“We developed the PGH Carepool FB group to help our fellow workers get to work and go home safely. Mahirap na for us to be in a place wherein we can easily acquire the virus, tapos it got more difficult na we cannot even go home or go to work,” she said.
The thought alone that one will be away from loved ones is difficult, adding that to the lack of personal protective equipment and masks. Both mental and physical challenges are enough to burn out the nurses, Valdez said.
“Now, naka-7 days straight duty scheme kami, then 14 days quarantine after. We cannot afford na may magkasakit sa'min kasi sobrang kulang sa manpower,” she said.
"The PGH Care Society, pwede nila tawagan or i-message when they feel burnout or anxious. It really helps sa health workers na makapag-unload ng stress nila."
Nurses at PGH are free to share their thoughts with members of the care society in confidence. It is a safe digital space where each healthcare worker is actively encouraging one another.
Valdez said the nurses want to strengthen the sense of community throughout this crisis.
“We utilize social media to reach out to our health workers. Kasi we all know na this is the time wherein everyone is anxious, and ayaw namin na isawalang bahala 'yung mental health ng nurses. Kaya as much possible we think of ways to boost their morale and hype them. We started nga the profile banner with the hashtag #One PGH and United against COVID.”
Among the efforts of the digital community is to get video encouragements from their requested actors, performers or artists. Kath said this helps a lot in inspiring nurses and health workers.
They also share platform with nurses who want to showcase their talents. One particular nurse wrote a poem to inspire frontliners combating the disease.
Aside from these, Valdez said the group also reaches out to fellow nurses by giving them self-care kits.
“We give away self-care kits for nurse, na may masks and vitamins. We are still in the process of making other self-help materials to ensure na 'di ma-low morale 'yung nurses namin,” she said.
As the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the Philippines increases, Valdez remains hopeful the pandemic will be beaten, as long as health care workers got each other’s backs.
“We are still hopeful na this will end soon, but we are getting ready for this battle. We know na kakayanin namin to. Sana,” she said.
The PGH Care Society is also reaching out to everyone who can donate blood. Aside from COVID-19 patients, the hospital will also accept blood donations for cancer patients.
You can reach them at:
- PGH Bloodbank: (02) 8554 8400 (local 3017)
- Globe: +639057201890