Filipino nurses in UK respond to NHS call to join frontlines of COVID-19 battle

Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 04:26 PM

LONDON - Filipino nurses Francis Michael Fernando and Teodoro Medran are among those stepping up to the plate to join the frontlines to help the National Health Service (NHS) in its fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"I am waiting to hear from the NHS to work as a part-time critical care nurse during this pandemic. I also would like to emphasize the UK government’s plea for people to stay at their own homes, to prevent the spread of the virus and save lives," said Fernando.

The 45-year old used to work at Croydon University Hospital as a Matron. He was with the NHS for almost 20 years before moving to a private care home.

Retired doctors and nurses, including those who used to work at the NHS, have been asked to return and join the fight against COVID-19.

More than 65,000 retired NHS workers have been contacted by senior officials to join frontline workers at UK hospitals. Some British-Filipino nurses were also quick to heed the call of the NHS. 
Fernando was in self-isolation for two weeks due to COVID-19 symptoms. But with the NHS' call for help to fight the pandemic, he is ready to return to the care home in the interim. 
"I was ill myself with a suspected coronavirus three weeks ago. I had been in self-isolation for two weeks and have just come back to work last week. I feel confident that I am giving my best to look after my patients as long as I have proper PPEs (personal protective equipment) to protect my patients, my colleagues and myself," said the Cabanatuan City native. 
As of April 13, the United Kingdom has recorded 84,283 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 10,612 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Another Filipino nurse who responded to NHS is nurse specialist Medran. He left the NHS in 2017 to venture into motor trade, but kept his registration active at the National Nursing and Midwifery Council. He was recruited from the Philippines and joined the NHS in 1999. 
“Once a nurse, always a nurse who responds to the call of duty,” said Medran, who was awarded Nurse of the Year during the 2011 Star Awards of the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital (BSUH).

But Medran is also worried of his own health, especially because he has two children aged 13 and 11, with special needs. If he gets exposed to the virus, he can risk the health of his two children. But the call of duty persisted especially after seeing the rising death toll in the UK. He is waiting to be called by the NHS any time. 
“I responded to the call of the NHS because simply I want to give my share to humanity on fighting this war. Someday, my kids will ask me what have I done with this pandemic, aside from donating goods and help others. They will be glad and will be proud to know that their father became one of the brave frontliners,” said Brighton-based Medran. 

Fernando said the Filipino workforce is a valuable part of the NHS, who are leading teams in various hospitals. His return is a gesture of giving back to the organization that nurtured him to be the best that he can be as a medical practitioner. 
"We are the second largest group of foreign nurses in the NHS after India. So, I strongly believe that we are a very valuable resource/workforce in the UK especially in this unprecedented pandemic."

The 2019 report of the NHS published on House of Commons library records identifies 18,584 Filipino workers, second to India (21,207), as the biggest number of foreign nationals working for the NHS. 
Recently, on national TV, Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan praised the contribution of the foreign workers, especially Filipinos who are in the frontlines fighting the deadly virus. 

His recognition of the Filipino nurses boosted the morale of those in the frontlines, including nurse Dia Villahermosa North. 
“As a Filipino nurse in the NHS, we would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for acknowledging our work. We promise to serve till the end,” said North.