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Shorter isolation, quarantine for fully-vaccinated health workers 'unsafe, unfair' — nurses' group

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Shorter isolation, quarantine for fully-vaccinated health workers 'unsafe, unfair' â nurses' group
Patients and their companions crowd outside Amang Rodriguez Medical Center in Marikina City as they wait to be admitted to the hospital on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022 as the Philippines records a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:40 p.m.) — The directive to shorten the quarantine and isolation period of healthcare workers will endanger medical frontliners and will not solve a severely lacking workforce, an organization of nurses said.

In a statement, the Filipino Nurses United called the shortened quarantine period for fully-vaccinated medical workers "unsafe, unfair and irrational."

"While we, nurses, continue to vow to fight this pandemic, we cannot agree with the policies that put the nurses and other health workers in a suicidal mission," FNU said.

"We believe that this shortened quarantine for vaccinated and asymptomatic but COVID infected health workers compromise our health and safety. Ultimately, this equally puts our patients and communities at greater risks and would further spread the virus," it added.

The Philippines is reporting record numbers of COVID-19 infections, threatening to overwhelm the country’s health system anew.

In an advisory last week, the Department of Health said that hospitals are authorized to implement shortened quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated healthcare workers who are close contacts.

Hospitals, "in extreme circumstances of manpower shortage and upon weighing risks and benefits," are also allowed to implement shortened isolation period for fully vaccinated healthcare workers with COVID-19 up to five days.

Alliance of Health Workers president Robert Mendoza said the new policy "will never solve the chronic and acute problem of understaffing of health workers who for the longest time are burned out, had meager wages and felt betrayed by the unjust treatment of this government by not releasing the COVID benefits of the health workers."

FNU called on the government to hire additional health personnel and enhance its public measures by providing free and accessible COVID-19 tests, aggressive and systematic contact tracing, improved quarantine services, and adequate aid for displaced sectors.

"FNU calls for free mandatory COVID tests for frontline health workers especially nurses and a 14-day quarantine for COVID-19 infected and exposed, regardless of symptoms and vaccination," the group added.

In a statement later Monday, Akbayan party-list called on the DOH to rethink the policy, which it said is like "rolling the dice" with healthcare workers' lives.

The party-list noted that doctors and other medical professionals go through years of training and endangering them further could mean losses that would impact the country for longer than the pandemic. 

"Instead of adding to the risk, let us improve the working conditions for all health workers and address systemic issues so that even as we protect the public, the healthcare sector cures its ills in personnel," Dr. RJ Naguit, the party-list's second nominee, said.

"The nation's health workers have gone beyond their oath and have been protecting us from harm time and again. Let us pay them forward, and protect them in turn."

COVID-19 PANDEMIC

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

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