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True Struggles of a Frontliner Amid the Pandemic COVID-19

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Krishna is a registered medical technologist by profession. She works inside the laboratory in a hospital.

Frontline workers are pandemic-era heroes.

Frontline workers are pandemic-era heroes.

Doctors, nurses, health workers, military personnel, and other frontliners are heroes as who continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While people are advised to stay at their homes during the lockdown, our brave frontline workers continue to work to serve the people.

The Daily Struggle of Going to Work

I am a medical technologist (or medical scientist). I work 12 hours a day in a private secondary hospital in the city of Mabalacat in the Philippines. During the lockdown period, I waited every day for our hospital's one and only ambulance to pick me up from my house to be able to go to work (and later, to return home). This means waiting for minutes and sometimes even hours, as the driver which is also one of the hospital's janitors has some other work to do. The driver would go back and forth picking up other employees (cashier, nurses, pharmacists, radiologic technologists, and others) working in the hospital at different hours depending on their locations. Some of our employees would come from far-flung areas but because of the lockdown and the restricted operations of vehicles, the ambulance service would be their only option. Nevertheless, our drivers despite finishing all their duties as janitors would not rest yet as they pick up the employees no matter how far the location.

Scarcity of PPEs

Our hospital is only secondary, this means that it lacks the necessary resources that could handle treating COVID patients. This leads us to avoid at all costs the admission or even check-up of possible COVID patients - Person Under Investigation (PUI) and Person Under Monitoring (PUM) included. This is because our facility couldn't handle the containment of such viruses which would only lead to the spread of it and the endangerment of its employees, especially the healthcare workers.

Despite receiving donations from others (not from the government), the personal-protective-equipment (PPEs) was first given to the nurses because there is the ugly norm or belief that the nurses are the most affected personnel in a hospital setting and they should be the one protected first. Despite working with the blood, urine, and feces samples of patients and having direct contact by drawing blood from the patients, the hospital has chosen to give the medical technologists as well as the other employees, only one mask each and the gloves that we needed.

After two possible COVID-19 patients were admitted because of lying about their true symptoms, the hospital finally decided to provide full-gear PPEs for all the employees (not only the nurses). Some workers who have direct contact with the patients without wearing the full-gear PPEs were forced to be quarantined for 14 days without pay.

Heroes' Discrimination

While frontliners are being called heroes in media, most people discriminate against us in real-life situations. Despite our sacrifices of donning full-gear PPEs which are extremely hot to wear (not an exaggeration) and no toilet breaks to avoid changing PPEs, we continue to experience discrimination from the people. Some people would believe frontliners to be carriers of the virus.

On April 3, in Quezon, an ambulance driver was shot for parking his vehicle in a residential area after transporting medical personnel. The resident who pulled the trigger accused him of ferrying COVID-19 patients. Also, on March 27, in the city of Sultan Kudarat, five men doused a hospital utility worker with bleach on his way to work. The worker nearly lost his sight. In Iloilo City as well as in Metro Manila, health workers are being evicted from their dormitories by landlords who see them as carriers of the disease. More stories of discrimination are being heard as the pandemic goes on.

Volunteers? Anyone?

The Department of Health (DOH) apologized on March 28 for the P500 (lower salary for a regular 8-hour work of other workers in the Philippines) daily allowance given to volunteer health professionals fighting the COVID-19 disease.

The P500 was seen as 'nothing but an insult to our COVID-19 frontliners' by the Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines.

The volunteer work will have 14 days of eight-hour shifts and 14 days of mandatory on-site quarantine.

Even if the DOH, in the presence of Health Assistant Secretary Vergeire 'said' that the majority of the agency’s budget is intended for buying PPEs - many frontliners are still falling and dying because of acquiring the disease.

The disease has already infected 252 healthcare workers in the Philippines as of April 8. Dr. Beverly Ho said that of this number, 152 are doctors while 63 are nurses. The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines said that 21 doctors have already succumbed to COVID-19 on that day.

The DOH then finally revised its policy for COVID-19 testing to include healthcare workers manifesting symptoms.

Full rooms, supply shortage, understaffed shifts, 'heroes' discrimination, daily struggle, fear of contracting the disease and spreading it, and many more - we the frontliners continue to bear challenges amidst the pandemic COVID-19. We continue to serve people despite the difficulties that we continue to face. Some of us even bare to not see our loved ones so that we could serve the people. In this time of crisis, we need more of your support and respect for us to be able to willingly, gladly, and safely fulfill our duties.

© 2020 Krishna