This undated photo shows the response team for COVID-19 patients at Quezon City General Hospital as number of patients in city rises.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Under amended protocol, health workers with symptoms will be tested for COVID-19
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - March 31, 2020 - 7:18pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health said Tuesday it has amended its testing policy to include healthcare workers who exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

Under the revised protocol, healthcare workers who exhibit even mild symptoms can now be tested for possible COVID-19 infection.

“We have amended our policy and healthcare workers who have symptoms are now considered patients under investigation,” DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said Filipino in a press briefing.

This comes after the health department received reports of hospitals that allegedly refused to test healthcare workers who exhibit symptoms after they were exposed to infected patients.

“Even if they only have mild symptoms, let’s test our healthcare workers and let us take care of them.,” Vergeire added.  

Previously, only PUIs with mild symptoms who are elderly, people with underlying health conditions, those who are immunocompromised and admitted PUIs in severe and critical condition were eligible for testing. Some politicians have also managed to have tests done.

In a March 25 interview, Philippine General Hospital spokesperson Jonas Del Rosario said that even health workers who are considered PUIs and PUMs do not always get to be tested.

"In as much as we want to conduct tests, we don’t have kits," he said.

"Some of them had mild symptoms and, unfortunately, you have to say 'no'. Test kits are limited, so most our employees—they have mild symptoms when we ask them—they go on self-isolation first," he said.

The Department of Health has been working to increase its capacity for testing and subnational testing laboratories are already being set up across the country.

Healthcare workers have been falling sick because of the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients and persons suspected to have infection that flock hospitals across the country.

They also deal with the shortage of supplies such as masks, suits and protective gear, making frontliners even more susceptible to the virus while treating patients.

At least 12 doctors have died in the Philippines from the new coronavirus.

DOH on Tuesday reported 538 new COVID-19 cases, its biggest one-day leap since the outbreak began, bringing the national total to 2,084.

The country has so far conducted 15,337 tests, including retests and validation. Figures from the DOH also showed that 3,938 persons have tested since late January.

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