COVID-19 deaths among health workers in PH up by a third in September, reaches 61

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 06 2020 07:40 PM

Medical technologists work inside the The Lord’s Grace Medical and Industrial Clinic, a molecular diagnostic laboratory in Pasay City, on September 29, 2020. The privately owned facility, which can process 2,000 tests per day, partnered with the local government of Pasay to accommodate individuals wishing to get tested for the coronavirus disease (COVID19). George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The number of health workers who died due to COVID-19 in the Philippines increased by a third in September, according to Department of Health data.

A total of 21 new fatalities were logged from September 1 to 30, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths among health workers in the Philippines to 61, as of Oct. 3.

Twelve of those were recorded on September 9, “the highest announced in a single day since the 34 deaths announced on May 3,” the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG) said.

Nine more deaths were added from Sept. 10 to 30.

It is unclear though when the deaths actually occurred since data on health workers infected with COVID-19 are usually delayed due to additional validation from the Department of Health.

In late August, while the official tally was already 40, the DOH admitted that they were actually checking the deaths of a total of 53 health workers. This meant there were 13 more who died but were not yet added to the official list. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said then that the delay was due to the validation, to make sure that the health workers were on active duty and that they actually died from COVID-19. She said death certificates can take a while to be processed, as well. Under the law, families of health workers who die from COVID-19 are entitled to get P1 million in benefit. 

Of the 21 health workers logged as dead in September, 10 were nurses, 3 were administrative staff, one was a nursing assistant, another a utility staff, and another a barangay health worker. There were five fatalities whose professions were not known. It is unclear if the Philippine General Hospital doctor who died in late August is already included in this tally.

Since May, doctors accounted for 2 out of 5 deaths among health worker infected with COVID-19 in the Philippines.

This despite more nurses were confirmed positive for COVID-19, with 3,402 nurses testing positive for the disease against 1,761 physicians, as of October 3.

According to the ABS-CBN IRG, it meant that the case fatality rate for nurses was only at 0.5%, while that of doctors was at 1.48%.

Asked about this, Vergeire previously explained that most of the doctors who died had pre-existing medical conditions. She did not discuss whether the profession was linked to higher risk of death.

ALMOST 500 MORE INFECTIONS

In the last week (September 27 to October 3), the country also logged 475 additional COVID-19 cases among health workers. This is higher than the previous week’s 305.

Health workers with COVID-19 account for 3% of the country's total confirmed coronavirus infections, as of October 3.

Of the 9,822 health workers who were infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, 9,100 have already recovered, 61 died, and 661 are still being treated or undergoing self-isolation.

Of the active cases, 405 have mild symptoms, 224 are asymptomatic, 20 have severe symptoms, and 12 are in critical condition.