Time to attend to the needs of our medical workers

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Aug 10 2020 09:15 AM

MANILA - For 4 days now, the Philippines holds the number 1 spot in ASEAN. Sadly, the leaderboard is not one that brings us pride but fear: we now have the highest number of recorded COVID-19 infections. Worse, there seems to be no relief in sight as cases continue to rise, many coming from battered Metro Manila.

According to the Department of Health, about half of the country’s available hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are now occupied as of August 9: that’s 54% of Intensive Care Unit beds; 49% of isolation beds; and 50% of ward beds. Of the 2,100 ventilators across the country, only 30% are in use.

While these bed and ventilator statistics offer small relief, I am more interested on who’s tracking the “inventory” of our medical workers? Social media is abuzz with all sorts of news and rumors including one where nearly all cardiologists in one hospital have been infected. Some have succumbed to the deadly virus. Others are losing the mental battle to this pandemic.

So when 80 medical associations come together and issue a plea for a timeout, shouldn’t the response have been a quick and resounding yes? Seeing headlines of politicians that took this badly and cast them in a negative light angered many, myself included. After all, the doctors and the nurses are not the enemy, the virus is. And their distress call is one that we all should heed.

With friends who operate hot kitchens and have converted part of their homes as assembly stations for care packs, I reached out to doctors from different hospitals in different COVID-19 hotspots asking for their wish list. I expected requests like hot meals, or free reliable and sanitized transportation, even financial support when they fall ill. To my surprise, none of them asked for material things. Instead, they enjoin us to pray for unity and compassion at this time. That’s not too hard right? In ECQ, or MECQ, or GCQ, or whatever Qs the government throws our way, let us draw inspiration from these medical frontliners. May your kindness and prayers touch, what your hands cannot.

Keep an ECQ Mindset

Dr. Anna Ong-Lim understands too well the deadly toll COVID-19 has taken on the country, but when her father was infected, her burden felt even heavier. As Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious and Tropical Disease in Pediatrics of the College of Medicine, Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Lim is one of many medical workers at the forefront of containing the virus.

“When my Dad was admitted for COVID, so many events happened that I can only attribute to God's hand directing the situation, allowing for these circumstances to converge and lead to his recovery. This reassured me that even in this seemingly chaotic crisis, our Lord continues to be in control,” shares Dr. Lim.

As she personally prays for continued health and safety for family, friends, colleagues, she hopes for “the government and private sector to work together more efficiently, and better discipline from everyone, to have an ECQ mindset regardless of the level of community quarantine that is currently in place,” explaining this will help us reverse the infection trend.

So the spread can be controlled more effectively, Dr. Lim would like to see the “development of a better way to identify pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infected individuals,” and finally “for an effective preventive tool (vaccine or any other intervention) to be available soon.”

Protect and support health workers

The Mallillins have been attending to doctors and nurses who need debriefing because they are physically tired and emotionally distressed from seeing patients die alone, and they cannot do anything about it. 

Before the pandemic, Dr. Maddie Mallillin was a consultant at Asian Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical City as an adult Psychiatrist with focus on cancer and medically-ill patients. COVID-19 caused her to shift to attend to her medical colleagues.

Maddie relates several pressing issues, such as “the feeling of isolation since those working in the frontline have to isolate themselves from their loved ones, or if they get sick themselves, they also have to strictly quarantine. There are also those who experience discrimination.”

She adds that some hospitals have very good support for their health workers, but some needs more. “The big hospitals in the National Capital Region and major cities in the provinces have organized good support system, but some government hospitals don’t have this. Thankfully, mental health professionals have volunteered to do crisis management and counseling services for the frontliners.”

Her husband is a Neurologist and a Psychiatrist with Our Lady of the Pillar Hospital in Imus, Cavite. With his continued exposure to the frontlines, Dr. NA Mallillin appeals that healthcare workers will be given enough rest and protection, and to have the mental strength to go on. He also wants them to receive eventual recognition for all the sacrifices they have endured.

Reach out to one person daily, and pray together 

Before the COVID19 scare, Dr. Jasmin Jamora ran a successful practice as a Dermatologist. She is one of the first to make a pivot to life with COVID-19, engaging in tele-medicine consultations to serve her patients.

She hopes that “all sectors from government, business and the medical community will work as one in unity to beat this pandemic for good.” In the meantime, she is grateful to friends, colleagues and patients that offer comfort or gratitude at this time.

“As a doctor, there have been many times friends, colleagues and patients sent food to express solidarity, give comfort or gratitude for our help. Receiving food, small gifts or even a simple encouraging text thanking me is very fulfilling and gives me hope and joy,” shares Dr. Jamora.

She enjoins others to do the same. “It is truly valuable to receive encouragement and support from anyone especially at this time. Reach out to at least one person daily who needs hope and encouragement. Thank them for who they are, what they do and pray with them.”

While COVID-19 continues to give us many reasons to be anxious and to complain, choose to focus on the positives and do your share to bring joy whenever and wherever you can.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.