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‘I was scared to tell my parents I work at COVID unit’

Ashley Mae Abesamis (second from left) with coworkers at Diliman Doctors Hospital: “We wear an N95 under the face mask.”

from lifestyle.inquirer.net

‘I was scared to tell my parents I work at COVID unit’

By: Cheche V. Moral     Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:00 AM May 03, 2020

Planning for things they want to do when the pandemic ends is a regular topic among active-duty hospital health-care workers.

“It’s what keeps us going,” says Ashley Mae Abesamis, 22, a nurse at the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) unit of Diliman Doctors Hospital in Quezon City. She hasn’t been home for nearly two months since the outbreak. She feared for the health of her parents and brother, so she has opted to live in the hospital for the time being.

There are many others like her who are missing the comforts of their own beds and the company of loved ones.

“Aside from the quarantine, we also don’t want to possibly infect others,” she says. “My coworkers and I have become each other’s support system. I’m really glad we have each other, even if we don’t get to socialize and share meals because of the distancing protocols. Sometimes when we chat we still have to do it via phone.”

Due to staff shortage and the mounting cases of the virus, Abesamis now works up to 12 hours, five days a week. Her two days off are spent mostly catching up on sleep.

“It’s emotionally and physically draining,” she says. “I’m assigned to the respiratory unit, now the COVID-19 unit. I told my parents only a week ago that that’s where I work. I was scared to tell them. If they had known sooner, I knew they wouldn’t have allowed it. There’s nothing they can do now.”

“I’m lucky, though, that they’re supportive. I’m able to see them briefly when they drop off home-cooked food at the hospital gates. Some of my coworkers’ families live in the provinces so they haven’t seen them at all.” Others have been prevented by their loved ones from going to work altogether.

Abesamis says she and her coworkers have gotten the hang of handling COVID-19 cases, from personal protective equipment (PPE) usage to constant hand washing “until your hands are so dry.”

They’re now also more conscious of the “portal of infection, so we’re very cautious.”

COVID-19 cases have somehow decreased “a bit,” she says, and “we’re constantly updating our protocols. But even after two months, the fear never leaves, so we’re still super careful.”

Many patients don’t feel any symptoms, so they don’t complain, then they suddenly deteriorate. “It breaks your heart to see them struggling to breathe.”


Surrogate kin

The hardest part is giving the bad news to the patients’ families. “Ang sakit sa puso ang magbalita ng ganun, whether it’s just informing them that we have to intubate or their loved one has died.”

Since family can’t be at the bedside of COVID-19 patients, the doctors and nurses become surrogate kin as the patients fight for their lives, says Abesamis.

“When we have recoveries, that’s the best feeling,” she adds.

At the onset she already experienced discrimination on her way to work. Noting her uniform, a jeepney barker stopped her from boarding the jeepney.

“Nakakababa ng morale. Pandidirian ka pa. I hope that the fear doesn’t eat into people’s good sense. I understand their fear, but I hope they don’t discriminate against us. Overstretched na kami. We just need support, apart from their compliance to social distancing. We heard of that incident where a nurse’s neighbors threw bleach at her. That’s why many of us don’t want to go home.”

Despite the challenges, Abesamis has no regrets about her profession. “Nakakapagod, but it’s great to be a nurse, especially now.”

Work abroad is an option for this young nurse “because the compensation is better,” but she has no plans of leaving until the pandemic is over. “Our mindset is, if we don’t go to work, it’s never going to be resolved.”

What gets her through the day is planning when she could bond again and share a meal of samgyupsal with her family, and perhaps take a long vacation.

“When this is over,” she says, “I just want to walk into a convenience store and buy myself a beer!” INQ

500 Pinoy patients to join initial COVID-19 drug trial

“Initially, 500 patients will be participating in the trial that will done in 20 hospitals in the Philippines,” Vergeire said during a virtual press briefing.
Edd Gumban, file

Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star ) - April 24, 2020 - 12:00am


MANILA, Philippines — About 500 coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients in the country are set to participate in the solidarity clinical trial to find effective drugs against an infection.         

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the trial, led by the World Health Organization (WHO), might start today if all the requirements are completed.

“Initially, 500 patients will be participating in the trial that will done in 20 hospitals in the Philippines,” Vergeire said during a virtual press briefing.


The hospitals that will participate in the trial are Philippine General Hospital, The Medical City, San Lazaro Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Baguio General Hospital, East Avenue Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, St. Lukes Medical Center Global, St. Lukes Medical Center Quezon City, University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Manila Medical Center, Chinese General Hospital, San Juan de Dios Medical Center, Diliman Doctors Hospital, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Vicente Sotto Medical Center, Southern Phil Medical Center and World Citi Medical Center.

Vergeire said the participating patients have already been selected, adding that the Department of Health (DOH) is just waiting for the shipment of the drugs to be used in the trial.         


Although there are indications the Philippines has already flattened the COVID-19 curve, she noted that it would still be too early to declare this because of data limitations.

“With all of these things that we are doing, we are still not at the point that we could analyze and say that we have already flattened the curve,” Vergeire said partly in Filipino.

She also said that the daily tally released by the DOH is not yet real-time. 

Yesterday, it reported 271 new COVID cases, bringing to 6,981 the total number of confirmed infections in the country. The number of recoveries climbed to 722 while the fatalities jumped to 462 with 16 new deaths.

The number of recoveries, DOH said, includes only those who have tested negative from the infection before getting discharged from the hospital or undergoing home quarantine. Those who recovered from the infection but were not tested are not included in the list.

Vergeire said that, based on current data, the case and mortality doubling time – the period during which case rate increases – has significantly slowed down.

“From three days, the doubling time is now five days but this does not mean we have to be complacent,” she pointed out.

The DOH also requested the Muslim community to help in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by observing the Ramadan, which starts today, by praying inside their homes and not going to mosques for congregation. 

So far, it has secured a budget to hire only 857 of the targeted 15,000 health workers needed to help in the COVID response. 

Also at yesterday’s virtual press briefing, PhilHealth vice president for corporate affairs Shirley Domingo said they now have a package for COVID testing and for those who will undergo isolation in a community quarantine facility. 

Domingo added that PhilHealth is also partnering with the Red Cross and local government units to cover the cost of mass testing for COVID.

PhilHealth, she reported, has already released P10 billion for the advance claim of healthcare institutions admitting COVID patients and P10 billion for regular claims.