Health workers hold online protest vs DOH's new quarantine rules

Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2022 06:48 PM

MANILA - Health workers held a coordinated online protest from various hospitals and wards to show their strong opposition to what they say are unjust treatment and anti-healthcare worker policies by the government.

The pandemic frontline workers who participated in the event said they have become exasperated as the Department of Health supposedly continues to neglect their plight, specifically their safety, health, and well-being.

According to the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), the various amendments being made by the DOH on quarantine and isolation protocols are causing much confusion. 

The group believes that all health workers who underwent quarantine after being exposed and identified as a close contact to COVID-19 patients must still go through an RT-PCR testing before being required to report back to work. 

AHW is demanding that the quarantine and isolation period be reverted back to 14 days. 

Based on the DOH's new protocols as of Jan. 7, fully vaccinated health workers who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic or are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms need to isolate for only up to five days. 

Those who are close contacts of positive cases, meanwhile, do not need to go under quarantine. 

The DOH earlier said this is to maintain the manpower of hospitals due to the surge of COVID-19 cases most likely driven by the omicron variant. 

“We demand for a 14-day quarantine and isolation protocol for the health workers and general public, regardless of whether one is asymptomatic but with close contact, asymptomatic COVID positive, those with mild and moderate symptoms COVID positives, in order to ensure safety of health workers, their patients and to the rest of general public,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW's national president.

The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) earlier this month said it was allowing its healthcare workers who contract COVID-19 to skip quarantine if they are asymptomatic.

ONE COVID ALLOWANCE

The AHW is also opposing the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) which intends to consolidate all COVID-19 benefits. 

The DOH previously said a consolidated allowance will allow easier implementation and avoid delays experienced during the first two years of the pandemic. 

But for the AHW, this is a scheme to reduce benefits provided to healthcare workers. 

The group also reminded the government that several COVID-19 benefits under Bayanihan 2 supposedly remain unpaid until now.

Under the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA), benefits will be based on healthcare workers’ COVID-19 risk exposure classification, which ranges from low, moderate to high risk. 

Those considered high risk or directly catering to COVID-19 patients will receive P9,000 per month; moderate risk or working in a health facility will be given P6,000; and low risk or no direct contact with COVID-19 patients will get P3,000.

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“Such a scheme is totally unacceptable and illogical because the virulent virus can infect anyone. Our data showed that many health workers assigned in non-COVID areas are getting infected more than those assigned in COVID areas due to insufficient protection," AHW Secretary-General Benjamin Santos said.

"The virus is airborne and can be transmitted through aerosol transmission. Thus, all health workers are considered HIGH RISK and must receive equal COVID-19 benefits," he added. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier this month said his agency is preparing for the "worst-case scenario" in the country's pandemic situation by sourcing health care workers from different sectors to aid in the virus fight.

The Philippines on Thursday reported more than 18,000 fresh COVID-19 cases.