MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippine Orthopedic Center on Monday called on the Department of Health to conduct mass testing in the hospital after dozens of its staff tested positive for COVID-19.
"Ang aming panawagan, kung kakayanin po ay bahagi no'ng mass testing na ilunsad, hindi lamang sa mga health workers kundi sa aming mga pasyente," the hospital's employees union head Sean Herbert Velchez told ANC.
(We are calling on [the DOH] that the mass testing should not only be for health workers but also our patients.)
Velchez, a nurse at the Quezon City-based hospital, expressed concern that orthopedic patients were at risk of infection as their length of stay in the hospital averages from 15 days to a month.
Some patients also couldn't afford a RT-PCR test, the gold standard in COVID-19 testing, he added.
This, after some 117 workers of the orthopedic center tested positive for COVID-19. Most of them were asymptomatic and exhibiting mild symptoms. Two are currently being treated at a hospital facility for severe symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
"Unfortunately, 'yong mga active cases ngayon ay 'yong stratification niya ay wide-ranging din. Mula mga specialists, mga resident doctors and surgeons hanggang sa mga office staff at allied health professionals. So, talagang stretched ang staffing at the moment pero kinakaya pa naman," Velchez said.
(Unfortunately, our active cases now, its stratification is wide-ranging. From specialists, to resident doctors and surgeons up to office staff and allied health professionals. So, our staffing is stretched at the moment but we're coping.)
As of Saturday, 216 patients are confined in POC, the hospital said. The orthopedic center is also caring for 12 COVID-19 patients.
Due to COVID-19 infection among its staff, the hospital has suspended its outpatient services and elective surgeries while its emergency room would remain open for orthopedic patients.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a regular press briefing Monday, said the agency was coordinating with the POC following increase of coronavirus infections from its staff.
"Mula ng nagkaroon ng ganitong pagtaas ng kaso sa kanila (When they started to have increase in cases), we are in close coordination with them," she said.
The DOH has already provided hotel accommodation to some 36 orthopedic health workers who had to quarantine. The other 40 were recuperating in the hospital.
Vergeire also said they had given supplies of personal protective equipment and the POC management had sorted out the working hours of its employees.
In the interview, Velchez lamented that health workers would not get certain benefits despite being in the frontlines on the crisis.
For example, he said those who would have to quarantine for 2 weeks would not get their hazard pay, which is 20 percent of their salary.
According to a rule from the Department of Budget and Management, government health workers will not receive their hazard pay if they fail to report to work for 11 days in a month, he said.
Velchez also called on the public to stop discriminating health workers as some were refused in public transportation.
A nursing attendant was reportedly fetched by barangay officials after allegedly testing positive for COVID-19 just because the employee was working in POC, he added.
"Huwag i-discriminate ng ating mga kababayan 'yong ating mga (Don't discriminate our) health workers, especially sa (those in) Philippine Orthopedic Center," Velchez said.