1.1K health workers hit by COVID since Feb. 1

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    AMID projections that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases will continue to soar and hospitals to be overwhelmed by patients come Easter Sunday, the Department of Health yesterday said 1,154 healthcare workers have been infected with the virus from February 1 to March 21, 2021.

    Of the total number since February 1, one has died, 786 have recovered, while 367 are still active cases.

    And since the start of the pandemic, the DOH said there have already been 15,435 healthcare workers hit by COVID-19.

    Out of the whole number, 82 have died, 14,900 have recovered, while 453 are still active cases.

    On the other hand, the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) said healthcare workers are already exhausted from the year-long war with the novel virus.

    In a radio interview, PHA president Dr. Jaime Almora said: “The nurses are already exhausted. They are already lacking in manpower… Their capability to provide services is already low,” said Almora.

    He said this is actually one of the main reasons why it is getting difficult for hospitals to expand their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.

    “Ordinarily, they would have to expand. But they cannot expand because of this limitation. Reports of limited beds is actually because hospitals are lacking in manpower services,” said Almora.

    Earlier, the independent OCTA Research Team projected that all hospitals and medical facilities in Metro Manila will already be overwhelmed around Easter Sunday, April 4.

    This, it said, is due to the explosive rise in cases in Metro Manila in recent days.

    Over the weekend, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) admitted to already considering asking for a “timeout” amid the pandemic.

    According to PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario, the timeout could be necessary due to its healthcare personnel already running short.

    In a virtual press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire appeal anew to hospitals to expand their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients to prevent being overwhelmed.

    In particular, Vergeire said they expect private and public hospitals to allocate 30 and 50 percent, respectively, of their hospital beds for COVID-19 cases.

    “We urge our hospitals, both public and private, national and local government, that during surge in cases, they have that (responsibility) to help the government by expanding their capacity to accommodate more patients,” said Vergeire.

    Told of the predicament of healthcare workers, the health official said they are already looking into the possibility of augmenting hospital workforces.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed Vergeire’s statement and said that the DOH is already augmenting and giving breaks to some of the healthcare workers in Metro Manila hospitals by tapping services of those from nearby provinces.

    Roque said the national government understood the sentiments of the PGH healthcare workers. PGH is Metro Manila’s top COVID referral center.

    “DOH augments the health workers. We get health workers from areas near Metro Manila to relive those in the hospitals who are really already tired,” he said

    Roque, recalling the peak of the COVID-19 last year, and their call for a timeout then, said the government since then have taken steps to ease the burden on some frontline health workers. Among the services provided by the government include transportation and accommodation for those on duties, free COVID test, life insurance and risk allowance, among others. – With Jocelyn Montemayor