Wanted: Clear LGU policies against COVID discrimination

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    SEN. Richard Gordon yesterday called on local government units (LGUs) to come up with clearly-defined policies on how to respond to cases of COVID-19 after a female nurse was kicked out of her boarding house for testing positive for the virus last August 2 and was rescued while roaming the streets of Makati days later.

    Gordon said the case of the female nurse whom he identified as “Gem” was a classic example of discrimination that he said must be properly addressed by the government by defining policies until such time the measure on anti-discrimination on COVID-19 has been passed into law.

    The House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading a bill that will penalize discrimination against individuals who have been infected or recovered from COVID-19. A similar measure is pending at the committee level at the Senate.

    Makati Mayor Abby Binay, meanwhile, has ordered an investigation into the plight of the nurse and reminded everyone that there is an ordinance prohibiting and penalizing all forms of discrimination against persons with infectious diseases like medical frontliners, according to city legal officer and Makati spokesperson Atty. Don Camiña.

    Gordon said there are facilities where LGUs can turn over residents who have tested positive for COVID-19, adding local government officials, down to the barangay level, should be trained on the proper protocols for the procedure.

    Gordon said “Gem,” a customer care representative nurse under a health maintenance organization, informed her landlady via text message last August 2 that she had contracted the virus and was told to vacate her room.

    Gem said she informed her family in Batangas of her condition but they could not come get her because it was already late and that one of the requisites before she could return home was a negative result of a swab test for COVID-19. She left her boarding house at around 9 p.m. that day and looked for a temporary shelter.

    She said she reached Pasay City where she rented a motel room and stayed for two days.

    She then went to the health center of Barangay Olympia in Makati to seek help but was told the barangay health center was closed. Gem said she was eventually referred to the PRC through a friend.

    Gem was found sitting on the gutter on Southville St. corner JP Rizal St. in Makati City, according to Zenaida Beltejar, consultant of the PRC’s welfare services.

    “Nanlulumo ako nu’ng nakita ko talaga. Nandun siya sa gutter, nakaupo. Naiyak talaga ako nu’n – ang nurse na nag-COVID, positive, ganun ang treatment natin. Imagine, nangyayari pala ito, ilang nurse dyan ang nasa kalye ngayon (I was teary-eyed because they treated a nurse who tested positive of COVID-19 just like that. I can’t imagine that this really happened and I’m wondering how many of our nurses are on the streets in the same situation right now),” Beltejar said.

    As of August 3, the office of Sen. Gordon said there have been 5,153 health workers infected with COVID-19 in the Philippines. Of those, 422 are still in hospitals or under home quarantine.

    Camiña said Makati has existing facilities and protocols to handle COVID cases, adding the city has enough facilities to accommodate all COVID-19 patients in the city.

    “It is unfortunate that this happened to the nurse in this case but this should not happen again as the city government is now taking action of the said incident,” he said.

    He added that all barangays in the city have been instructed to address all concerns related to COVID-19 patients regardless if the person is just renting or a bona fide resident.

    Under Makati’s Ordinance No. 2020-087 or anti-discrimination against COVID-19 cases, violators will be fined P5,000 for the first and second offenses and P5,000 plus a year of imprisonment on the third offense.

    Camiña also urged all Makati residents to report inhumane acts against COVID victims. – With Noel Talacay