Docs on MECQ: Better than GCQ

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    Dr. Maricar Limpin (Photo from pna.gov.ph)

    MEDICAL organizations on Monday welcomed President Duterte’s decision to place the National Capital Region and its nearby provinces under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), even if their plea was for the stricter enhanced community quarantine or ECQ.

    Dr Maricar Limpin, co-convenor of the Health Professionals Alliance against COVID-19, said the MECQ is better than the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).

    “What we want is to primarily tighten the community quarantine,” said Limpin. “While it is only MECQ, we are still happy with it. It is a lot better than GCQ,” she said.

    On Sunday night, Duterte announced that the NCR, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna will be under MECQ starting Tuesday until August 18. This was prompted by the call of medical organizations and societies for Mega Manila to be placed under ECQ for at least two weeks to allow the healthcare system to recuperate and for government to reassess its strategy.

    The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), meanwhile, answered allegations made by President Duterte about the medical groups attempting to “demean” his government, saying there was never a call for a revolt.

    Limpin, PCP vice president, said the MECQ will not be enough for the government to “flatten the curve” of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We know it’s not going to make a dent, if ever, in the rise of infection. It will be impossible to attain that in two weeks time,” she said.

    What they are looking forward to, she said, is for the government and the healthcare sector to hit the reset button on how to defeat the novel virus.

    “Maybe we can think of a more comprehensive strategy, particularly contact tracing, case finding, addressing the problem of frontliners in terms of deficiencies of health workforce, as well as the proper implementation of safety precautions,” said Limpin.

    `NO CALL FOR REVOLT’

    Duterte, in his public address on Sunday night, dared medical societies to stage a “revolution” against him after they went public with their criticisms of his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    PCP president Dr. Mario Panaligan said they are puzzled as to where Duterte was coming from when he accused medical professionals of being out to get him when they asked for the ECQ.

    “Sadly, we were taken aback and surprised when you highlighted in your address to the nation last night (Sunday night) that we are indispensable but not irreplaceable. So we beg your indulgence and allow us to rectify this impression,” said Panaligan.

    “If you closely review the virtual conference on August 1, there was never a call for a revolt nor was there any threat of leaving patients on their own since our oath instructs us to first do no harm to anyone who needs our help,” he said.

    Panaligan assured Duterte it is not in the nature of medical professionals to go against the government even as they have every reason to bear gripes.

    “Three months have passed since that time and after other requests like quarantine facilities for HCW, insurance coverage, and protection from verbal castigation and physical violence to name a few have been left unanswered. We patiently held on as soldiers in battle,” he said.

    “We bear no ill will and have acted without malice towards the implementers of the law and the Bayanihan As One goal. But our empty cries had to be made known somehow,” added Panaligan.

    He stressed their appeal was directed towards the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to provide healthcare workers” a fighting chance” in the war against COVID-19 and prevent unnecessary fatalities.

    “If we just knew that your office was not briefed in detail about the situation of our workers in both government and private hospitals, we would have sought a private audience with you to settle these issues,” said Panaligan.

    DEMEANING GOV’T

    President Duterte on Sunday night chided members of the medical community for their “demeaning” actions which he said were not intended to criticize the government and air their grievances but aimed at raising their hands as if they are going on a revolution.

    He said the medical community could have sent him a letter properly and it would have been answered.

    Duterte said his administration would not have forgotten or disregarded the medical community especially at this time of the pandemic.

    “Hindi namin kayo kinakalimutan. There would not have been, no need for you to go into a, itong ganito. And raising your hands as if sabihin ninyo ‘revolution, revolution’ (We will not forget you. There would not have been, no need for you to go into, like this. And raising your hands as if you are saying ‘revolution, revolution’),” he said.

    Duterte said he understands that the members of the medical community are already “bone tired” but sending him a letter about their concerns would have given the government a chance to address the issue they raised.

    He also said the government’s resources are limited but it would have tried to do something.

    He added that if the medical community, however, thinks that they would achieve their goal by going through a revolution, then he would accept it and find other people who are willing to take their place and serve those in need.

    “If you think that this can be solved by revolution, then by all means, we start it. Mas gusto ko. Kung magsabi kayo, nagtaas na kayo, revolution, revolution, go ahead because I would be calling all people who love their country to come forward and work for the people (If you think that this can be solved by revolution, then by all means, we start it. I prefer it. If you say this, raise this, and say ‘revolution, revolution,’ go ahead because I would be calling all people who love their country to come forward and work for the people),” the President said .

    Roque defended the President, saying he was the “last to know” of the medical groups’ appeal. He also said Duterte was not overreacting or being over sensitive but merely expressing his sentiments on the issue.

    Roque also said that the “revolution” idea stemmed from a series of events that happened before the medical community’s demands. He said prior to the airing of the medical community’s appeal for ECQ, critics of the administration publicly sang a song lifted from the “Les Miserables” play.

    The critics’ song was also shared online after Vice President Leni Robredo and Sen. Franklin Drilon, who have issued statements critical of the government’s efforts to address the pandemic. — With Jocelyn Montemayor