MANILA — Health workers groups on Monday said no one from the sector was calling for revolution, as alleged by President Rodrigo Duterte. Instead, they are calling for help as more health workers get infected with COVID-19 amid being overworked and underpaid.
“It’s not a call for revolution, President Duterte. It’s a call for help,” said Jaymee De Guzman, a nurse at San Lazaro Hospital and member of the Filipino Nurses United (FNU).
“Baka yung health workers walang nagre-report sa inyo ano ang tunay na kalagayan. Hindi po rebolusyon ang sinisigaw namin. We need your help kasi kami na ang nahahawa,” she added during the virtual forum organized by FNU.
(Perhaps no one is reporting to you about the situation of health workers. We are not calling for a revolution. We need your help because we are contracting the disease.)
As of August 1, there have been 5,008 health workers who were infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. A total of 394 are still in hospitals or home quarantine.
De Guzman was reacting to Duterte’s comments late Sunday night that health workers should not call for a revolution. His remarks came after medical societies appealed for Metro Manila to be placed under the stricter enhanced community quarantine due to the continuing rise in COVID-19 cases.
Last week, the country had record-high additional COVID-19 cases being reported daily, which was attributed to the relaxed quarantine measures to allow the gradual opening up of the economy.
The call of the doctors and the continued increase in COVID-19 cases prompted the government to declare a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from Aug. 4 to 18 in Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna.
FNU National President Maristela Abenojar said Duterte should not alter the issue.
“Wala naman sigurong sumigaw sa ating health workers na rebolusyon. Malinaw ang ating posisyon.
We just want appropriate and concrete medical and health interventions,” she said.
(I don’t think any of the health workers called for a revolution. Our position is clear. We just want appropriate and concrete medical and health interventions.)
Harry Roque, the spokesman of Duterte, said in a press briefing Monday that the "revolution" remark of the president stemmed from the spread online of the Filipino version of "Do You Hear the People Sing?", a popular tune from "Les Miserables".
Abenojar said they cannot even be satisfied with the response of the government because they have not seen anything substantial.
She said their call is not selfish, and that they only want to further help the Filipino people.
In the same forum, Dr. Joseph Carabeo, the founding president of the Community Medicine Practitioners Association (COMPASS), said the President has been known to be quite sensitive to any criticism and those who criticize him are tagged as communists or subversives.
“Walang sinasanto ang Pangulong ito kaya nakakatakot talaga,” he said, pointing out that instead of addressing the concerns of the doctors, he resorts to threats or harassment.
Dr. Edelina dela Paz of the Health Alliance for Democracy also said, “Do not take criticisms as a personal attack to you. You are supposed to lead the country.”
“Tinanggap n'yo ang trabahong 'yan, matuto kayong makinig sa tao,” she added.
(You accepted that job so you must listen to the people.)
Roque denied that Duterte is sensitive to criticisms.
According to Dela Paz, there is a need for change in the “national leadership.”
“If this government cannot do it, you better step down,” she said.
Several of the groups called for Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s resignation.
“Hindi ka kailangan sa Department of Health,” Carabeo said of Duque.
The Philippine Medical Students Association also criticized Duque’s recent statement about the DOH hearing the plight of health workers.
“Si Duque po ay incompetent, walang silbi, walang kwenta sa pag-lead ng DOH, sa pagsugpo ng COVID-19,” said PMSA President Jed Cueto. “Hangga’t nakaupo si Duque, maraming buhay ang ma-aagrabyado.”
(Duque is incompetent, useless in leading the DOH and addressing COVID-19…As long as Duque is in power, many will be aggrieved.)
Cueto said the person who is really at fault is the President.
“Ang aming panawagan po, panawagan ng kabataan - agarang pagpapatalsik sa isang pangulo na hindi kinikilala ang karapatan sa kalusugan ng mga Pilipino,” he said.
(Our call, the call of the youth - is for the immediate ouster of a president who does not recognize the right to health of Filipinos.)
During the forum, some nurses from San Lazaro Hospital talked about how difficult it is to tend to COVID-19 patients when they are not receiving appropriate personal protective equipment and benefits.
Many are forced to extend duty hours because of the lack of manpower, which the DOH has said is adequate.
The FNU's De Guzman said that the nurse-to-patient ratio of 1:12 is still inadequate since many of the patients they care for are in critical condition.
The groups also lamented the P10,000 salary that private hospital nurses get, and the delay in the implementation of the salary increase for government workers.
Before reprimanding the health workers over their complaints during his public address, Duterte said he was in favor of recommendations to give them additional allowances and such other benefits as insurance, free accommodation and transportation, and free and frequent testing.
On Sunday, confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surpassed the 100,000-mark, of which, 35,569 are active. The country recorded its first case of the infectious disease on Jan. 30 in a Chinese woman who arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the disease is believed to have first emerged.