MANILA — Nurses from San Lazaro Hospital, one of the government hospitals at the forefront of the Philippines’ COVID-19 response, said they are on the verge of quitting because of work overload.
"We were trained to handle infectious diseases for decades but apparently we are now becoming the victims. As of today, San Lazaro Hospital has more than 40 cases of positive COVID-19 personnel: doctors, nurses, admins, aids and staff," the San Lazaro Chapter of the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) said in a statement on Friday.
The group said half of those who tested positive for COVID-19 have symptoms and are confined or self-quarantined.
At the start of the pandemic, San Lazaro Hospital, as the national referral hospital for infectious diseases, received many of the COVID-patients in Metro Manila.
By April, 4 in 10 COVID-19 recoveries were coming from San Lazaro Hospital.
The group said the hospital's healthcare service to the public is being jeopardized due to limited number of staff “resulting in too much physical, emotional and mental exhaustion,” as well as shortage of personal protective equipment.
The nurses also complained that they were being instructed to reuse PPEs even after 12-hour shifts and are not being given sufficient support in terms of transportation, accommodation, and stress debriefing.
They said they are also dealing with “unacceptable salary and unreasonable implementation of hazard pay.”
"Nursing staff and other healthworkers are treated as robots not human beings. The patient does comes first but their (health workers) safety should be top priority for if we get infected no one will be left to care for the sick," the group said.
Doctors have reportedly been buying their own PPEs, as well.
On Thursday, Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of San Lazaro Hospital’s adult infectious diseases division, said the hospital’s COVID-19 ward was nearing full capacity although they will continue to accept patients.
But FNU said that there are no more staff to man the regular wards that were converted into COVID wards. “This puts a high risk to the nurses’ health for it will result to overload, over fatigue, that will eventually end up with more nurses getting infected,” the group said.
The nurses revealed that some of them fear being displaced because they are being asked to move out of their temporary dwellings.
“The exhausting labor of transferring patients and heavy equipment to the upper floors via the ramp due to the elevator that has not been functioning for years [has] resulted to injuries to HCWs (health care workers),” they said.
The nurses said they were not consulted when it came to protocols and guidelines pertaining to COVID-19.
“The morale is very low,” they said.
For now, the nurses said “the overwhelming support of the private sectors and individuals are keeping our hopes high.”
ABS-CBN News is currently reaching out to San Lazaro Hospital for response. The DOH has yet to reply as well to media queries on the issue.
As of July 5, the Philippines has recorded 3,513 health workers to have been sick with COVID-19. A total of 2,643 of them have already recovered while 34 have died.
The majority of 1,244 are nurses, while 875 are doctors. The rest are other health facility workers.