Coronavirus kills 3 Filipino doctors

MALACAÑANG on Sunday, March 22, commended the “selfless and heroic deeds” of health workers as the Philippine medical community mourned the passing of three Filipino doctors who died from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Cardiologist Israel Bactol from the Philippine Heart Center, anesthesiologist Gregorio Macasaet III of Manila Doctors Hospital and an oncologist at the San Juan de Dios Hospital succumbed to the disease in the last two days.

The Philippine Heart Center (PHC), in a statement, confirmed Bactol’s death and described him as “a casualty of this war” against Covid-19.

“We honor him as he lost his young life while fulfilling his duties as a doctor, a young cardiologist and a dedicated member of PHA,” the association said.

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA), in a separate statement, said it “deeply mourns for our fallen colleagues who have died while serving on the front line in the fight against Covid-19.”

“You are a great loss to the medical profession and to our country. We thank you dear doctors for finishing the race with a great fight,” the group said.

In a Facebook post, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David said Macasaet’s wife Eva, who is also an anesthesiologist, has also contracted the virus and is in another isolation room.

David said Macasaet had already been intubated when he tried to call him. He instead reached the wife, who agreed to a pray-over through the phone.

David said there are at least 10 other doctors on the front line who are now themselves fighting for their lives.

As of Sunday, March 22, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 380 Covid-19 cases in the country, with 25 deaths. Many patients are still waiting for their test results.

At The Medical City, hospital president and chief executive officer Eugenio Jose Ramos said almost 150 of their health workers have been ordered to go into self-quarantine after they were exposed to Covid-19 patients.

"As of last night, placed under quarantine for 14 days were 95 nurses, 13 residents and fellows, 12 emergency room physicians and 24 house staff," he said.

"Medyo na-expose sila o pinapasigurado lang, pinapauwi namin baka na-expose...May nakabalik naman," he added.

Supplies running low

Ramos admitted that the Covid-19 pandemic is putting a strain on their resources and manpower.

He said The Medical City's intensive care unit (ICU) is full. Four patients under investigation (PUI) are currently hooked to a respirator in the ICU.

Ramos said they might run out of machines as more people seek treatment. They are already running low on personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks.

He said they have to regulate the use of their supplies to make these last while waiting for additional supplies.

"Kahit 'yung mga PPEs, N95, talagang lahat parang war time, stretched lahat," Ramos said.

"Ang supplies namin good for two weeks na lang," he said.

While they do not turn away patients, Ramos said people who suspect that they have contracted the coronavirus should seek help from other hospitals.

The Department of Health has designated the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital and Jose Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center (formerly Tala Leprosarium) as Covid-19 hospitals in Metro Manila.

At the Palace, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo assured support for all the frontliners, including the doctors and other health workers.

Palace thanks frontliners

Panelo extended the Palace’s appreciation and gratitude to the following:

The doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who continue and constantly place their lives on the line to attend and care for their patients;

The employees who risk being exposed to -- or infected by -- Covid-19 to report to work at the drugstores, supermarkets and groceries;

The farmers and farm workers who continue to bring their produce and other products to sell in wet markets;

The employees of food preparation and delivery services who make sure that there will sufficient food supply to the people;

The business owners who caused the delivery of essential food and basic items;

The drivers of designated vehicles who bring thousands of frontline employees, and health workers to and from work including those who deliver agricultural products and other food items;

Other employees in the private and public sectors who form part of the skeletal workforces of their offices to see to it that basic private and government services remain in operation;

The local government officials who rise to the challenge thrown by the health crisis to enforce the established protocols and guidelines of the enhanced community quarantine or lockdown in partnership with the national government;

The media workers who bring to the nation the news and information vis-à-vis the fight against Covid-19 to keep it informed of the evolving development of the crisis for its guidance; and

The officers and men of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other law enforcement agencies who leave their families in their hours of duty to ensure the strict enforcement of the measures set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to halt the spread of the virus to maintain peace and order as well as secure the safety of the Filipino people.

The entire Luzon, with a population of over 53 million, is under enhanced community quarantine until April 14, 2020.

The residents, except the frontline workers in the fight against Covid-19, are mandated to stay at home. Only one person per household is allowed to go out to procure basic necessities.

Public transportation systems as well as domestic air and domestic sea travel have been suspended.

Across the country, many local governments have also imposed localized quarantine measures in a bid to slow the spread of the disease.

The entire country is under a state of public health emergency and state of calamity to allow government to tap emergency and quick response funds.

A P2.7-billion program to help fight the disease has been rolled out while officials have introduced a monetary stimulus package to bolster the bleeding economy.

The business community, however, is calling for a massive fiscal stimulus program to save lives and mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. (MVI and TPM/SunStar Philippines)