MANILA (UPDATE) - The Makati Medical Center (MMC) on Wednesday issued a strongly-worded rebuke of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III for entering the hospital and violating his home quarantine on the same night he confirmed his diagnosis for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
In a statement, MMC Medical Director Saturnino Javier chastised Pimentel for bringing his wife to the hospital Tuesday night despite experiencing symptoms earlier, exposing health workers to the infection already bringing the private facility on its heels over the past few weeks.
"Last night, the strict infection and containment protocols of the Makati Medical Center Delivery Room Complex (MMC-DR) were breached by a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines," said Javier.
The doctor said Pimentel brought his wife, who was due for a cesarian delivery for their first child, even while he should have been under home quarantine.
Pimentel himself said earlier Wednesday he was already at the hospital when he learned that his test, taken on March 20, came out positive. He said he hurriedly left the facility.
He also said he had started experiencing symptoms, including body aches and flu, on March 14.
Still, 10 days later, Pimentel went to the hospital to accompany his wife.
"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. 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," said Javier.
The MMC is one of several private hospitals already strained for handling COVID-19 cases.
"We denounce the irresponsible and reckless action of the senator. He added to the burden of a hospital trying to respond in its most competent and aggressive manner to cope with the daunting challenges of this COVID-19 outbreak," said the hospital chief.
He said Pimentel, "more than anyone else," should have "realized the ardent desire of every well-meaning Filipino and every dedicated healthcare institution to contain the spread of the infection."
The hospital said Pimentel's action "contributed no solution" but "created another problem" for the facility even as it took care of his wife.
Because of Pimentel's presence at the hospital on Tuesday night, MMC had to disinfect and decontaminate its delivery room complex and needs to evaluate its health workers present at the time of his visit for possible quarantine.
"We assure the public that the MMC-DRC has been decontaminated and is now ready for use. The involved healthcare workers have been duly identified, evaluated and will be quarantined if the risk of exposure warrants it," said Javier.
He said Pimentel's calls for the public to comply with home quarantine measures under the government-ordered lockdown of Luzon as a containment measure have now lost credence as he violated this himself.
"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," the hospital chief said.
"We fervently pray that none of our healthcare staff will acquire the viral infection. As we make this wish, we plead and urge everyone to do his share in quelling the spread of this infection, especially our nations duly elected leaders," he added.
In an interview, Pimentel said sorry but still defended his actions and appealed for reason.
"I'm sorry that it happened pero it's a hospital scenario," the senator said.
Asked to comment on the possible filing of a complaint against him, Pimentel said: "Let's be reasonable. Tandaan natin na wala akong information na positive ako... I am the expectant father, samahan ko expectant mother. Wala naman akong ubo."
(Let us remember I had no information I was positive... I am the expectant father, accompanying the expectant mother. I had no cough.)
Pimentel earlier Wednesday bared he had tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the second senator to acquire the disease, next to Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Several senators went on voluntary quarantine and took COVID-19 tests after exposure to a confirmed coronavirus patient during a March 5 Senate hearing. Several have tested negative, while the Senate building in Pasay City had to be disinfected.
Apart from visiting the MMC, Pimentel said in a separate television interview that he recently attended two birthday parties and a meeting.
The Philippines has recorded over 600 coronavirus cases and is into the second week of a Luzon-wide quarantine, restricting more than 50 million people in their homes to prevent the spread of the disease that has killed 38 people here.