It’s a little difficult to express the gratitude of doctors and nurses in the Philippines when they learned 100,000 test kits, 100,000 surgical masks, 10,000 N95 respirator masks, and 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment arrived in a flight from China this morning local time.
Moist eyes. Relief. Sobs. And a starry eyed, “oh wow!”. That’s what I saw. I can’t say what they felt.
by Melissa Hemingway
Note: Many FPMag writers are also health care workers and have been called to extended duty. Our reports will return to normal frequency very soon. In the meantime if readers have submissions for consideration, please do not hesitate to contact the firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miracles do happen. This one was needed. The Philippines government failed to test early and widely for Covid-19 and has barely been able to test a thousand persons let alone the kind of mass testing that the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros is talking about. (Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the WHO has “a simple message. Test. Test. Test”.)
“Test every suspected case, if they test positive, isolate them and find out who they have been in contact with two days before they developed symptoms and test those people, too,” Dr. Tedros has said repeatedly.
Doctors in Cordillera, La Union and Ifugao provinces of the Philippines have told FPMag it takes eight to ten days to get a test processed.
The WHO’s emergency director, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that failure of countries like the United States to screen for coronavirus was helping the disease to spread.
“Every suspect case should be tested, their contacts identified. If those contacts are sick or showing symptoms, they should be tested. That requires a scale-up, because many countries have not been systematically testing all suspect cases, and it’s one of the reasons why we’re behind in this epidemic,” said Dr. Michael Ryan.
The Philippines on Military Imposed LockDown
Front line medical workers in the Philippines have two very serious problems.
- Many must walk great distances to work because of the transportation shutdown and the military enforced strict shutdown of roads for vehicular transport, and
- A calamitous lack of personal protection equipment.
According to Karinna Angeles, a nurse with The Nurses Without Borders and a volunteer worker for The RINJ Foundation her group in the past two years has been distributing boxes of surgical gloves and N95 (PFR95) masks to hospitals and clinics because they have dire shortages. “RINJ also provides toys and medical support items to specialized children’s clinics,” she says.
“But we just don’t have much more,” she adds with chagrin.
“The gifts from China,” says the nurse, “if anybody knew how much of a miracle that is going to be when frontline health workers finally get a supply, I just don’t know what to say… Thank You China.”
“When our people (RINJ) shut down our bombed-out hospital in Mosul, Iraq in 2017, I bid for and got a huge shipment of supplies sent to the Philippines by parcel post. Since then we have been quietly helping out wherever we can locally in the Philippines. Also we have been donating resuscitators and equipment like that, as needed by front-line medical crews.”
Our Civil Society group has hired a lot of Philippines nurses in the past ten years. Those nurses have worked in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Canada, Venezuela, more places than I can even remember,” she added.
Vast Restrictions Slam Down on Medical Workers
On 8 March 8 2020, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 922 placing the entire Philippines under state of public health emergency.
“This was followed by the strictest lockdown in Asia,” opines Karinna Angeles.
She adds that it is “so strict in fact that the flow of basic commodities has almost stopped and transportation for medical workers is near impossible unless they break the law and deal with military and police checkpoints which can be onerous.”