How Filipino health workers in the US are battling COVID-19

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 05:55 AM

For the frontliners in New York and New Jersey, treating the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients is like entering a "war zone." 

Some of the health workers, including Filipinos, shared their stories on how they are battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New York, there are 60,679 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far with 1,026 deaths. 

"It's been like a war zone, a medical war zone. And it's been tough, with working with limited medical supplies, working with a limited medical space to hold so many patients as well as limited personal protective equipment or protective personal equipment because we're at high risk as well. (And so, it is very physically and mentally exhausting.)" Dr. Arabia Mollette, emergency medicine physician in Brooklyn.

In New Jersey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Dr. Alexander Salerno, a Salerno Medical Associates Primary Care physician, said he spent $17,000 buying much needed medical equipment off the black market, that would normally cost around $2,500 to a 700% mark-up.

At the same time, he's also reusing protective gears meant for one-time use only.

"In a normal time, a gown is disposable after the patient encounter, you know, a single patient encounter, everything is, the gloves, the gown and the mask. But we are making gowns last an entire day and we're making masks last hopefully five days (before we bring a new mask in). We throw into our dryer under high heat, you know, because that would kill the spores if, God forbid, there were any," the doctor said.

Meanwhile in Paterson, New Jersey, advance practice nurse Janine Duran Llamzon is leading the charge among the frontliners at St. Joseph Hospital.

"It hasn’t been easy for all of us, New Jersey has been badly hit, so as our hospital, a lot of patients with respiratory symptoms," she said.

In New Jersey, there were 13,386 COVID-19 cases and 161 deaths as of Monday.

A Filipino frontliner said despite all the challenges, they are in the war against coronavirus for the long haul.

"The staff at St. Joseph is fighting very hard 24/7, fighting this virus. I have never seen this amount of unity, dedication between healthcare providers to protect the health and well-being of the community," said James Alcid, a resource nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital.