Pampanga health chief, ex-doctor to the barrios, succumbs to COVID-19


Posted at Mar 25 2020 10:22 AM


MANILA - The provincial health chief of Pampanga, who also served as a doctor to far-flung barrios north of the Philippine capital, has succumbed to the novel coronavirus, his daughter said Tuesday. 

Dr. Marcelo Jaochico passed away on Monday evening, after he tested positive for COVID-19, said his daughter Cielo. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also confirmed the report to ABS-CBN News. 

Jaochico's symptoms started with a fever on March 11 and later experienced loss of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea and shortness of breath, Cielo shared on Facebook.

He was quarantined in his house in Pampanga province, where he was a provincial health officer, until March 15, when he was admitted to a private hospital because of recurring fever and difficulty in breathing, she said. 

The doctor developed pneumonia on March 17, was transferred to an intensive care unit and on March 18 had pleural effusion or build-up of liquid outside the lungs, said his daughter. 

Jaochico was a resident at the Manila Medical Center and had taught at the Emilio Aguinaldo College, before he worked in the Doctor to the Barrios (DTTB) program of the government during the 1990s, said Cielo. 

For nearly 16 years, Jaochico crossed rivers and mountains to reach far-flung barrios in Calanasan, Apayao, serving as their "all-around doctor... their obstetrician, pediatrician, family doctor," Cielo said.

"Natuto siyang pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng mga tao nang may kaunting resources. They battled Dengue, Malaria and different outbreaks in their munting munisipyo (their little town)," she said on Facebook. 

(He learned to take care of the people's health with meager resources.) 
"Ganoon talaga pag mahal mo 'yung ginagawa mo," she added. 

(That's just how it is when you love what you do.) 

Jaochico eventually transferred to Manila to be close to his family and served as consultant of Mercury Drug Store, and at the Department of Health's Bureau of Local Health Systems and Development. 

In 2013, he started working as Pampanga's provincial health officer. Last year, the province was recognized for having the best risk reduction management council in central Luzon, Cielo said. 

She said her dad also fought for "level-headed" fees for diagnostic tests, especially for dengue and measles. He was also among the first responders in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda's onslaught in 2013 and the eruption of Taal Volcano in January, she said. 

"Please do not remember him as someone who just died because of COVID-19. Sobrang dami niyang ginawa para sa bayan (he has done so many things for the country)," she said. 

The saddest part of her father's death, she said, was that her father died in isolation. 

"Dad, you didn’t deserve to die alone, nang di naririnig gaano ka kahalaga sa amin at gaano ka namin kamahal. Di man lang namin ikaw narinig sabihan din kami. Dad, we didn’t even get to hug each other for the final time. Uuwi ka ritong nasa kabaong na. Ang sakit, daddy. Deserve mo magkaroon ng lamay at ng libing where all of your loved ones are there. Daddy, mahal na mahal ka namin. Kami na po ang bahala kay mommy. Ako na po ang bahala sa mga kapatid ko. Ipapatayo ko yung bahay na pinapangarap mo para sa amin, daddy," she said. 

Jaochico's wife, a nurse, is working in the United Arab Emirates, said their daughter.

The Philippines has so far confirmed 35 deaths and 20 patients who recovered out of its total 552 cases of the novel coronavirus. 

At least 3 other doctors reportedly succumbed to COVID-19: cardiologists Raul Jara and Israel Bactol, and anesthesiologist Gregory Macasaet. The health department has yet to release an official tally of medical workers who were infected with the pathogen. 

The entire Luzon, home to half of the Philippines' 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 12 to contain the pandemic.