AS OUR nation grapples with the continuing fight against Covid-19, we honour the commitment and dedication our health care workers who flock to the frontlines to work for long hours and tirelessly deliver public service in this challenging time.
The Commission on Human Rights, together with the whole country, recognises the invaluable contribution of our medical staff and calls for a stronger government prioritisation of their welfare especially in this state of national health emergency.
The Filipino people’s health depends on how the government cares for its healthcare workers. Every day, we are risking the lives of our most valuable health resource in the frontline. The likelihood of infection of our medical staff is higher than the general population as they are the most exposed to the virus.
We already lost three doctors in this battle—Drs. Israel Bactol; Greg Macasaet III; and Rose Pulido. We deeply mourn for the selfless dedication of these unsung heroes who died in line of duty. We also pray for the health of our medical workers in quarantine and the quick recovery of those confirmed to be infected.
With the government’s mobilisation of additional funds to help fight Covid-19, we demand greater spending in ensuring the protection of our healthcare workers and equipping our health facilities to accommodate the inundated number of infected patients.
As the global pandemic accelerates, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers has been a major concern. Our medical staff are waiting for such equipment while already attending to patients who may be infected. The government should ensure the speedy and enough provision of these requirements.
We recognise the mitigation strategies of the government of implementing community quarantine and physical distancing to help curb the spread of the virus. But we also need containment strategies which can be facilitated by mass testing. A rising number of doctors and other health workers are being placed under quarantine after exposure to Covid-19-positive patients and those manifesting symptoms of the infection. The depleting workforce adds heavier toll on managing the healthcare needs of everyone, not just those who have coronavirus-related illnesses.
Although the Department of Health admitted that mass testing is not yet feasible for our country at this point due to limited testing capacity of laboratories, we appeal to the government to provide Covid-19 testing kits to those who need them most urgently such as high risk patients and healthcare workers in accordance to the algorithm that the DOH released for the triage of patients with possible Covid-19 infection.
Alongside concerns for personal safety, our healthcare workers are also worried about passing the infection to their families. They too suffer from undue stress and pressure affecting their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Medical facilities should also strive to give support services to our healthcare staff to cope up with the unprecedented demand.
This health crises that we are experiencing right now could not amplify further the need to pass and amend pieces of legislation that give premium to the service that both public and private health workers provide. Apart from hazard pay, they deserve salary hikes and other protection measures that guarantee their sound health and safety.
In our own simple gestures, let us show our appreciation to our health workers and caretakers supporting people affected with Covid-19 in our communities and honour the role they play to save lives and keep our loved ones safe.
Statement of CHR on safeguarding the rights and welfare of our healthcare
workers in the fight against Covid-19, March 24, 2020)