Over 1,000 health workers in PH contract COVID-19 during the last week; total nears 9,000

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2020 06:01 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2020 12:30 PM

A health worker in a PPE cools herself in front of a fan at a testing center in Navotas City on Aug. 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines reported 1,140 additional health workers who were infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during the last 7 days, bringing the total cases among members of the sector to 8,494, according to the latest government report released on Sunday.

The new batch of infections is the highest announced by the Department of Health in a single week since April 28, when the agency started regularly publishing information on healthcare workers contracting COVID-19, said the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.

Only 728 of the total cases, though, are active, as 7,710, or 90.77% have recovered.

The number of health workers who succumbed to the disease climbed to 56.

Health workers comprise 3% of the country's total confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Sept. 12.

Of those still infected among the group, 58.2% have mild symptoms, 37.9% are asymptomatic, 3.16% have severe symptoms, while 0.69% (5 health workers) are in critical condition.

DELAYED VALIDATION OF DEATHS

The number of deaths among health workers increased by 16 since last week. Among the new fatalities are 8 nurses, 3 administrative staff members, and 1 utility personnel. The professions of the four others were not indicated in the Sept. 13 Beat COVID-19 Situationer.

Doctors account for most of the total deaths (46.43% out of the 56 fatalities). The Department of Health earlier said that most of the doctors who died had pre-existing medical conditions, which increase the risk of severe COVID-19.

Asked about the spike in deaths, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it was due to the delayed validation of cases among health workers.

In late August, Vergeire revealed that the death toll was at 53 although only 40 were in their official list. She said they were still validating the rest if they were eligible for the P1-million benefit from the government, intended for their families.

“Itong validation natin really for deaths is really taking a long time,” Vergeire said during a virtual forum on Monday. “Talagang cautious tayo pag ina-identify natin.”

(The validation of deaths is really taking a long time. We’re really cautious when identifying the cases.)

She said this is because the cause of death might be different.

Vergeire said a health worker who dies from a vehicular accident might be found to be positive for COVID-19. But the individual will not be included in the tally of health worker deaths if he died due to injuries caused by the accident.

Vergeire assured the public that they report health worker deaths as soon as they get the verification on the cause and date.

The percentage of health workers with COVID-19 reached almost 20% among the country's total at a time when hospitals were overwhelmed with patients. Just a month ago, doctors asked for “breathing space” as patients flooded hospitals.

While the DOH assured that strict infection control and prevention protocols are in place in hospitals, it has in the past attributed the spread of COVID-19 among health workers to community transmission since many still go home to their families.

The Philippines has logged a total of 265,888 COVID-19 cases, as of Monday, of which, 53,754 are active infections.