Nurses' group bemoans staffing shortage in hospitals amid surge in COVID-19 cases

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2020 10:33 AM | Updated as of Jul 30 2020 10:42 AM

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MANILA – Nurses' group Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Thursday bemoaned staffing shortages as government hospitals increased bed capacity to respond to the surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in the country. 

“Matindi po ang scarcity ng ating health care personnel lalo na po sa nurses habang patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng COVID cases,” said FNU national president Maristela Abenojar. 

(There's a severe scarcity in health care personnel especially nurses while COVID-19 cases increase.)

Under the Department of Health’s One Hospital Command strategy, public hospitals should allocate as much as 70 percent of total bed capacity for COVID-19 cases, up from the previous 30 percent capacity. 

Abenojar, in an interview with ABS-CBN Teleradyo, cited the case of the Philippine General Hospital where it committed to allot 130 beds for COVID-19 patients. 

As of Wednesday, 201 were admitted, she said. 

She also cited the case of a local government hospital in Metro Manila where it surpassed the bed capacity for COVID-19 patients from 63 to 73. 

She said this results in more health workers extending working hours and performing other duties due to lack of personnel. 

In terms of bed utilization, Abenojar said hospitals in the National Capital Region are now in the danger zone. 

Out of the total 5,232 COVID-19 beds in Metro Manila hospitals, 4,302 are already occupied, she said.

The DOH had announced that out of the more 8,000 available slots for health workers, it was able to hire over 6,000 as of July 27. 

“Medyo demoralized po ang nurses kasi kami pa po ang medyo nasisisi. Sabi po kasi ng Department of Health kaunti lang daw po nag-apply doon sa mga opening nila pero bakit ho kami parang nabibigyan pa ng sisi kung di nag-apply? Dapat nilang tanungin bakit kaunti ang nag-apply,” she said. 

(We nurses are a bit demoralized because we're the ones being blamed. The DOH said only a few applied for openings but why are we being blamed for that? They should ask why only a few are applying.)

The lack of proper personal protective equipment, poor infection control in hospitals and low salary could be possible factors why few nurses are taking on the job offer, she added. 

What's bad, she said, is that while "buffer beds" are being added, there is no corresponding increase in personnel.

Abenojar said the number of infected health workers have also increased.

“Tumataas bilang mo, mayroon kang mawawala tapos magdadagdag ka ng bed, hindi ka magdadagdag ng personnel, krisis talaga ito,” she said. 

(Cases are increasing [among health personnel], they can't report for work then you increase COVID-19 beds but you won't add personnel, this is really a crisis.)

As of July 29, there have been 85,486 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 26,996 recoveries and 1,962 deaths.