Malilong: Doctor, doctor, are you sick?

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

A FRIEND recently sent me a video last year of the New York City mayor profusely thanking Filipino doctors, nurses and other health workers for their “incredible work and sacrifice” in the city’s campaign to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. We would not have survived without you, Mayor Bill de Blasio told an audience made up mostly of representatives from NYC’s 80,000 Filipino inhabitants.

De Blasio may have exaggerated a bit, although he denies it, in claiming that they would have perished from the pandemic were it not for the Filipino health workers. But the praise was well-deserved. Our Filipino health workers are heroic wherever they are, whether here or abroad and their dedication and hard work had been and continue to be celebrated in so many different ways.

So it did not come as a surprise when last year, our own city government agreed to grant financial reward to our frontliners, the only local government unit in the entire country to have done so. A sincere thank you would probably have been enough but Mayor Edgardo Labella thought of adding a few thousand pesos (Thirty thousand, to be exact) to express his recognition of the sacrifice that the overworked and mostly underpaid medical frontliners went through.

The last installment was released only this week, accompanied by an apology from the mayor for the delay which, he said, was due to the lack of a template or precedence. In the end, the city decided to course through the hospitals the distribution of the incentives to the employees that they have previously chosen. It was a wise move because it avoided charges of politicizing the distribution.

Significantly, in the week that the incentives were released, several health workers were reported to have been infected with the coronavirus while on duty. If anyone needed a reminder as to the hazards that our doctors, nurses and others face every day that they are at work, this was it. In the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center alone, 18 tested positive for the coronavirus.

Six of them were doctors, the rest were nurses and assistants. Councilor Joel Garganera, the city’s main point man in its anti-Covid 19 campaign said there were actually four hospitals that had doctors infected with the coronavirus but named only the Sotto hospital.

Garganera’s reluctance to identify the three others is understandable: they are all private hospitals. Unlike Sotto which has a budget from the national government, private hospitals depend on income from admissions to sustain their operations. If these hospitals report even just one infection among its medical staff, admissions will suffer.

That was why when the virus struck almost all the resident physicians in Internal Medicine of a local hospital last year, it never appeared in the papers. Happily, none of them needed hospitalization. After isolating themselves for 14 days, they reported back to duty.

Hopefully, none of the 18 VSMMC staff as well as the doctors from the three other hospitals would require hospitalization. With the new Covid-19 cases in the city on the uptick since December 29, we need the doctors and the other frontliners to stay healthy. And happy. You do not need P10,000 to make them smile. A de Blasio will do.