#helloRITMfrontliners: Public sends appreciation, encouragement to RITM workers

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
#helloRITMfrontliners: Public sends appreciation, encouragement to RITM workers
This handout photo shows Training on Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction Techniques for Rapid Detection and Characterization of Polioviruses from November 11-15, 2019 at the RITM Training Center.
RITM website

MANILA, Philippines — While parts of the world have ground to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector has been on overdrive, and the Philippines’ Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, which houses the main coronavirus testing facility, has been working round-the-clock.

RITM communications chief Angeli Blanco, on her social media accounts, said she was taking a quick washroom break from being on duty for 32 hours on duty when she heard whimpers in one of the cubicles located in one of the laboratory buildings.

She placed the voice to a cheerful girl with short hair, who comes in the communication office in laboratory scrub suits with logbooks and documents.

“I couldn’t believe she’d be the same girl crying behind a bathroom door,” Blanco wrote in a post on Facebook and Twitter.

But when she asked if the girl was all right, she let out a joke and said she was merely peeling onions. “This is just my third in the last 12 hours,” the girl also joked.

Before returning to work, Blanco said she told the girl: “Hey, we’ll be okay. We’re in this together.”

Fighting the disease in their own way

In her post, Blanco explained that even if she is not a healthcare worker, she and her team at the communications unit as well as the lab personnel have also been working long hours as the country in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said that the people working at RITM are “fueled by nothing more than caffeine, donated food packs, and sheer determination to fight the disease in their own way.”

Blanco shared:

You can only imagine how much more exhausting it is for lab and hospital personnel who are in full PPE and on their feet for days in a row; for our hotline responders who have telephones glued to their ears for hours; for data encoders who clickity-clackety on their keyboards from sunrise to sunrise; and even for janitors and security guards who run around pushing mops, collecting toxic garbage, inspecting and delivering goods, prohibiting food traffic in infectious areas, and accommodating all authorized entries of vehicles despite the RITM complex being overcrowded by trucks, vans and ambulances.

RITM’s hospitals and laboratories have always been operating 24/7, but since the virus outbreak, the institute’s non-clinical and non-laboratory staff have started round-the-clock operations.

“It was not formally announced, but people just go to work, people just want to be present,” Blanco told Philstar.com in an online exchange.

Those who do not come in at the office have committed to be “on call and reachable 24/7 via mobile, she shared.

Working past their shifts

Aside from working on test laboratory results, RITM has also been releasing information on test results and informing the public on facts and developments of the novel coronavirus that has infected thousands globally.

She also said that most of those working at the facility “choose to stay in the office after their official shift to help out in other support-related tasks.”

The office has arranged accommodations "with help from tent donors and pledges from nearby hotels, apartment complexes, country clubs,” she added.

Meanwhile those who opt to go home are ferried to and from work with the help of the local government of Muntinlupa and a private bus company.


Blanco encouraged the public to send their messages of encouragement and appreciation through #helloRITMfrontliners.

“I promise, your encouragement and recognition of their invisible sacrifices will go a long way,” she added.

The hashtag was on the trending list on Twitter all of Monday morning.

A Twitter user said: “For many of us, it’s a start of another week to be quarantined at home. But for you guys, another week to fight this virus and save lives. Thank you... for your sacrifices, your dedication and selflessness.”

Another shared: "Thank you for all the hard work you do, to make sure tests are done right and as quickly as you could. And in every result you see that brings out fear or relief, may you be strengthened with hope that this crisis will come to pass. Praying for you all.

“I pray that you all can stay safe and healthy. Your efforts and hardwork don’t go unnoticed. I just wanted to say I am proud of all of you and all that you continue to do despite not having enough resources and rest. Thank you so much! Saludo po ako sainyo,” another Twitter user said.




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