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Not only Metro Manila hospitals are short of nurses. Jails, too.

Anne Beatrice V. Lagman - Philstar.com
COVID-19 vaccination at the Manila City Jail
COVID-19 vaccination at the Manila City Jail as seen in this October 2021 photo release.
BJMP

MANILA, Philippines — While hospitals are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of staff, Metro Manila's city jails have also had insufficient medical attention due to the record numbers of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) and only a handful of medical practitioners attending to them.

Since the start of the pandemic, the Manila city jail, holding the biggest number of PDLs in the capital region with 4,192, has been more at risk to communicable diseases.

Detainees who petitioned for a “fair chance at surviving” COVID-19 outbreak said there was a lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care.

Based on the data of BJMP supported by the Department of Interior Local Government (DILG), there are 16 employed nurses in Manila City Jail-Male Dormitory, eight in Manila City Jail-Female Dormitory, and three in Manila City Jail Annex, as of July 2021.

In Mandaluyong, meanwhile, the city jail tries to function with one nurse per 800 PDLs.

Aside from the shortage of nurses, NCR jails lack crucial other medical personnel such as psychiatrists, dentists and pharmacists.

Common health complaints

Besides having to keep COVID-19 out, district jails have been dealing with thousands of cases of the top three medical concerns the BJMP recorded in May: upper respiratory tract infection with 8,458 cases, odontalgia or toothache with 4,858 cases and hypertension with 3,231.

The most common prison-related complaints include boils (carbuncle/furuncle) with 117 cases as of May 2021.

Among other diseases are jail rash, allergic rhinitis, ulcer, bronchial asthma, heart-related diseases, arthritis, diabetes, and skin infections. There have been no reported cases of deaths due to these diseases.

The DILG had given its assurance that jails under the BJMP would be “100% safe” from the pandemic and decided to suspend visitations at facilities. 

Most congested

The 40 jails around the National Capital Region have an idea capacity of is 4,997 detainees, but the actual population of those under custody is 26,230. This makes a congestion rate of 533%.

As of March 2020, there are 467 facilities under BJMP management, higher than the 2019’s  congestion rate

Manila City Jail-Male Dormitory has a congestion rate of 261% while 550% for the city’s female dormitory. For Mandaluyong, male dormitory holds 801 detainees and has a congestion rate of 861%, recorded at the end of August 2021.

The Commission on Human Rights had expressed the need for immediate COVID-19 vaccination of PDLs, alarmed at the increasing congestion rate in detention facilities.

"While we note that, during the early days of the pandemic, several government agencies [have] already looked into ways of managing and decongesting jails and detention facilities, the evolving threats of the pandemic necessitate revising strategies in managing the effects of COVID-19," lawyer Jacqueline de Guia of the CHR said.

In July 2021, the BJMP held an inaugural blessing for Mandaluyong’s new detention facility aiming “to bring down the congestion rate.”

“The construction of this nine-story facility with 24 detention cells tremendously reduced the congestion rate from 722% to -835% thus, achieving a zero-congestion rate,” the BJMP said in a statement.

DILG Undersecretary Ricojudge Javier Echiverri, BJMP officials and police officers also attended the event.

BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY (BJMP)

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (DILG)

PERSONS DEPRIVED OF LIBERTY

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