Health workers infected with COVID-19 breach 10,000; delays in death reporting observed

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2020 09:18 PM

Healthworkers wait for test samples outside 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 infected with COVID-19 in the Philippines has reached 10,178.

This according to the Department of Health’s weekly Situationer Report on COVID-19 released Sunday, using data as of Oct. 10.

According to the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group (IRG), the country breached the 10,000-mark for health worker infections on Oct. 7.

The 10,178 total COVID cases among health workers is higher by 356 than the week before. It is the 11th highest weekly tally of additional health worker infections since the DOH started reporting cases on April 28. The highest number of cases reported in a week is still 1,140 new cases from Sept. 6 to 12. 

The largest group of health workers infected with COVID-19 are nurses, with 3,543 cases, followed by doctors, with 1,801, and nurses assistants, with 774.

Of the 553 active cases, 350 have mild symptoms, 170 are asymptomatic, 22 health workers have severe symptoms, and 11 are in critical condition.

REPORTING DELAYS

Meanwhile, deaths increased to 63. Two fatalities — a doctor and a barangay health worker - were added to the total.

ABS-CBN IRG said the additional doctor added to the list of fatalities is most likely Dr. Kathlynne Anne “Karen” Abat-Senen, a neonatologist at the Philippine General Hospital who died on Aug. 23. This after Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire confirmed on Monday that Senen was finally included in the tally. ABS-CBN IRG said Senen was probably the doctor added to the tally last week, which was already 6 weeks after Senen’s death.

Data shared by the DOH on Monday showed that while 10 health worker fatalities occurred in July, only 4 were announced at that time. Another 10 workers also died in August but only 2 were added to the official tally. These backlogs were finally reported in September although only 4 deaths happened that month.

“This indicates that the 17 deaths occurred in previous months. The same is true for October. From Oct. 1-10, no healthcare worker died but the DOH announced two deaths,” the ABS-CBN IRG said.

Back in August, it was learned that while only 40 health workers were listed as fatalities in the official tally, the DOH’s administrative and finance department had actually recorded 53 deaths. Vergeire explained this was because they were very careful in checking whether a health worker was still in active duty at the time of the death, and if the cause of death is actually COVID-19. This was done as the government promised to provide a benefit of P1 million for the family of health workers who succumbed to the disease while at the frontlines of the country’s COVID-19 response.

Based on the latest DOH breakdown, the largest portion (3 out of 10) health work deaths happened in April.

MORE DOCTOR DEATHS

Of the 63 total health worker deaths, there were 27 physicians, 17 nurses, 7 administrative staff members, 2 nursing assistants, 2 barangay health workers, 2 utility personnel, 1 dietary staff, 2 hospital employees, 1 caregiver, 1 dentist, and 1 dental technician.

Asked about the larger number of physicians who died even though there were more nurses infected with COVID-19, Vergeire cited statistics showing that most of the doctor deaths were at the onset of the pandemic.

“Of the physicians who died - there were 24 - 88% of those, died from March to May of this year. For those nurses who died, 65% out of the total of 17 deaths among nurses, died from June to September,” she said.

She said among the factors they are looking at is that more COVID-19 patients are now confined inside the hospital, unlike earlier in the pandemic when emergency rooms were overflowing with patients. 

“These are just assumptions. We have to analyze with a study so we can be able to give you accurate factors why this is the case,” she said.

Previously, Vergeire pointed out that majority of the doctors who died had pre-existing medical conditions.

She said the latest data also shows that of the 63 reported healthcare worker deaths, 65% were 50 years old and above, with the median age at 57 years old.

Majority or 60% were males, and more than half or 54% had pre-existing conditions, such as cardiac, kidney and prostate problems.

Of the 27 doctors who died, 20 were male. And while the age range of the doctors were 35 to 89 years old, many of them are within 60 to 69 years old.