Filipino nurses seek help as frontliner colleagues die of COVID-19

Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2020 07:13 PM

NHS workers applaud outside King's College Hospital during the Clap for our Carers campaign in support of the NHS as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 16, 2020. Henry Nicholls, Reuters

LONDON - A group of Filipino nurses has sought help from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the world’s biggest nursing union, over job and health uncertainties due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Filipino Nurses UK Association, of which 36 members already died of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said it was concerned not only for the members’ deceased colleagues and their families, but also for their Filipino colleagues in the frontline, who are afraid to speak out.

In a recent teleconference meeting with Ruth May, the Chief Nursing Officer of RCN, the group said Filipino nurses and healthcare workers are reportedly often assigned to COVID-19 wards and without adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

There must also be a Filipino nurse representative to the team which will investigate the high proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic or BAME staff deaths in the NHS.
 
Filipino frontliners have the highest mortality of all ethnicities in the National Health Service and social care at 22 percent.
 
Nurse Lucia Reyes, who survived COVID-19 after a week in the intensive care,acknowledged that when the pandemic broke out, a lot of UK hospitals were not prepared for it, like other countries.
 
“Initially, we were not prepared. But the mortality is getting worse. So, were waiting for the supply to come and they came eventually,” Reyes told ABS-CBN.
 
Francis Michael Fernando, an interim officer for Filipino Nurses UK Association, meanwhile said the UK government must probe the shortage of PPEs for frontliners.
 
“It is very important that the government, the private health sector provide its frontline health workers with adequate PPEs or personal protective equipment to help us protect ourselves, to help us protect our patients, and our colleagues,” he said.
 
The group also wanted to clarify guidelines on PPEs and whether it should be mandatory to wear surgical masks. It noted the advice from different Royal Colleges varies and there is also the WHO advice. The group likewise pointed that there are evidence of higher mortalities amongst staff working in the non-aerolized areas (non ITU), such as wards.
 
It has also asked the RCN to immediately provide financial assistance and bereavement counseling to eight families of those who died while in service, assistance with repatriation of three nurses: Staff Nurse Maria Victoria Prado, Senior Nurse Larni Zuniga and Staff Nurse Donald Suelto.

The Philippine Embassy in the UK already communicated with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK to address these concerns.
 
The UK has 206,715 positive cases of COVID-19. It now has the highest number of fatalities in Europe, with 30,615 deaths in hospitals and care homes. It ranks second to the USA in number of fatalities, with a current total of 75,639 deaths.