Leachon to gov’t: Be mindful of effect of surge on health workers

Mico Abarro, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2022 04:40 PM

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MANILA—Health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon on Saturday said government must revisit its COVID-19 alert level system, amid a surge in cases among health workers. 

Leachon said on ANC's “Dateline Philippines” that government should also take into account both the health condition of healthcare workers at hospitals, and the number of COVID-19 cases pouring into emergency rooms. 

He warned that healthcare workers manning emergency rooms could get infected, leading to fewer healthcare workers in both the short term because of quarantines and the long term because of burnout. 

"As you can see right now, (there are) healthcare workers being sick. And once you are sick, then you will undergo isolation and your close contacts would be quarantined," Leachon said. "Since it is most transmissible, doctors would contract the virus even if it is mild, and it can cause burnout syndrome, demotivation, and eventually they will actually quit from their job if the work is very difficult." 

He said that letting more healthcare workers catch the virus may lead to labor shortages at hospitals, leaving a diminished staff to take care of other COVID-19 patients. 

To prevent this, the former National Task Force against COVID-19 adviser suggested that health clerks, medical students, and interns could be deputized to take care of mild patients under the supervision of a senior physician. 

"So you can actually rest the doctors and then expand the workforce that will be able to help," he said. 

Meanwhile, Leachon said that omicron COVID-19 variant should not be considered "mild", a label that could lull people into complacency. 

"As the omicron spreads like wildfire in our country right now, this is mild in terms of symptoms. But as the virus continues to spread more and more, it will be mutating," he said. 

Leachon said the sheer number of infections produced by the omicron variant could overwhelm the country's healthcare system and cause an economic depression.