Truly caring for our health workers

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    SINCE the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the nation has continuously heaped praises on Filipino health workers — physicians, nurses, medical technologists, etc. — who are in the frontlines of the life-and-death battle against spread of the virus.

    The media, the government, business sector, even children and poor vendors joined the chorus in elevating the healthcare professionals, called frontliners, to the level of heroes.

    Over the weekend, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire disclosed the sad news that there were already a total of 766 healthcare workers who contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the disease COVID-19. Of this number, 339 are doctors, while 242 are nurses.

    The new figures mean that in just nearly two weeks, the number of healthcare workers infected with the new coronavirus almost doubled to 13 percent of all recorded cases nationwide. As of last Saturday, the COVID-19 cases in the country totaled 6,087 with the death toll at 397 and recovered patients, 516.

    Compassion and platitudes heaped by Health Secretary Francisco Duque on the fallen heroes at the forefront of the fight are not enough. Duque said: “I know that you are exhausted. Most of you no longer get adequate sleep and some are falling ill. I wholeheartedly thank your for your service to our country.”

    These words are good to hear, but these ain’t enough. The Department of Health should walk the talk, first by providing adequate personal protection gear to all health workers, food, enough rest time and accommodation, transport facilities, etc.

    It is important that the DOH has embarked on emergency hiring of doctors and nurses. But more important is the protection of the health professionals already in the frontlines from the disease itself.

    It should not be very hard to grant the request of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) that mass testing must be implemented among their ranks regardless of whether nurses and doctors and other health practitioners have exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. The AHW demanded this because the DOH in a statement last Tuesday said that only patients and healthcare workers who exhibit mild, severe, and critical symptoms would be prioritized in the expanded mass testing.

    Let us not dance around. If this request by the AHW is granted, then the government is sincere in treating the frontliners as genuine heroes.

    If not, everything is just hollow talk.

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