PH health workers won’t be able to handle Indonesia-like COVID surge, says group

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 24 2021 10:30 PM

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"Pagod pa rin sila sa kasalukuyan (They are all still exhausted)." 

This was the statement of Robert Mendoza, the national president of the Alliance of Health Workers, when asked if the country's medical frontliners are prepared to handle a possible surge of infections driven by the COVID-19 Delta variant. 

In an interview on ANC, Mendoza said job vacancies at hospitals have yet to be filled due to the early retirement and resignation of colleagues. 

"Hindi napunan ang ating mga hospitals na malala ang understaffing, so wala silang pahinga hanggang sa kasalukuyan at nakikita natin na pagod na pagod ang ating health workers," he said. 

(The vacancies were never filled at hospitals that are severely understaffed. So those who remain haven't been able to rest until now, and they are noticeably exhausted.)

He added that the Philippines would have trouble handling a potential new wave of infections because of the Delta variant, which first emerged in India. 

The Department of Health earlier confirmed the local transmission of the strain in the country, with more carriers detected earlier Saturday. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire last week said her agency has commited to handle the 5-digit daily new infections like that of Indonesia's in a worst-case scenario. 

Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country, has had more than 3 million coronavirus infections and 80,598 deaths according to official data. The spread, driven by the Delta variant, has shown no sign of slowing.

Research organization Our World in Data said the country had a death rate three times higher than the global average.

"Kung magkaroon man ng surge tulad ng Indonesia at India, talagang hindi na kakayanin ng ating mga health workers unless magdagdag talaga . . . At sana 'yung 5,000 na pumasa na mga nurses ay mag-apply na para madagdagan na ang ating manpower," Mendoza said.

(If we experience a surge like that of India and Indonesia, we won't be able to handle it unless we hire more workers. I hope that the new nurses apply for the vacancies to add to our manpower)

He also gave President Rodrigo Duterte a failing grade in handling the pandemic, noting that his administration least prioritized the health sector. 

"Hindi talaga pinrayoridad ng gobyerno ang kalusugan kasi kahit sa usapin ng budget . . . No. 8 tayo sa lahat ng ahensya kaya bukambibig lang niya na prayoridad niya ang kalusugan ng mga manggagawa, mamamayan pero 'yung sa totoo, sa actual, ay hindi talaga . . . Kaya bagsak ang aming grado," Mendoza said. 

(Our health sector was never prioritized. In terms of budget, we are 8th among agencies. When he says we are his No. 1 concern, that's just lip service.) 

The country has so far tallied 1.54 million COVID-19 cases, of which 27,000 are deaths and 54,000 are active infections. — With a report from Reuters