Nurses demand protective gear, transparency in coronavirus fight

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2020 04:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2020 06:17 PM

Members of Filipino Nurses United call for the government’s transparency and ask for protective gear for nurses working at the frontlines in containing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus during a general meeting at the Philippine General Hospital on February 6, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The government should be transparent with and provide protective gear to nurses who are at the forefront of efforts to contain the spread of a coronavirus outbreak from China, a group of health workers said Thursday. 

Some hospitals only give nurses surgical masks once a week while others only provide gloves, making them "vulnerable" to the disease that has claimed at least 580 lives in China, said Filipino Nurses United president Maristela Abenojar. 

There were also instances in which the government failed to notify nurses that a coronavirus patient is under their care, she claimed. 

"Malalaman mo na lang 'pag may namatay na. Paano ang oras na na-exposed na ang health personnel at mga nadaanan niyang pasyente,” claimed Abenojar. 

(You'll only know about it once the patient died. What about the time in which the health personnel and their patients are expose to the virus?) 

"Mahalagang mabilisan, maagap at kumpleto ang info na binibigay ng pamahalaan," she added. 

(It's important the information is given immediately and accurately.)

The novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, has infected some 27,300 since it emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan a few weeks ago. 

A 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan died in Manila after testing positive of the disease, making him the first fatality outside China, authorities said over the weekend. 

Authorities are keeping watch over at least 133 people suspected of possible 2019-nCoV infection, including the fatality's 38-year-old female companion. 

Even before the outbreak, one nurse typically takes care of 30 to 50 patients, up from a previous 1 is to 12 ratio, claimed Abenojar. Low pay also forces many teachers to work abroad, she said. 

"The state does not treat health as a priority," said Abenojar. 

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the allocation of some P2 billion to purchase protective equipment for public health workers, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said earlier this week. 

Duterte last year also approved a law that would provide health care coverage for all Filipinos. 

Report from Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News