Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital staff cheer as they send home Dr. Estrella Huang after surviving COVID-19.
Courtesy of Dr. Yong Larrazabal
Cebu City doctor, 69, recovers from COVID
Caecent No-ot Magsumbol (The Freeman) - April 8, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  A 69-year-old doctor who was confined for at least two weeks at Cebu Doctors Hospital (CDH) in Cebu City has recovered from the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease.

Estrella Huang, an internal medicine specialist at CDH for over 30 years, was discharged Monday to cheers and congratulatory messages from co-workers at the hospital.

“It is such a nice feeling to see her well again. It is such morale booster for all of us,” said Dr. Potenciano “Yong” Larrazabal III, president and chairman of the board of Cebu Doctor’s Group of Hospitals, in an interview with The Freeman.

Larrazabal aid Huang did not travel to places with COVID-19 outbreak and they suspect she may have acquired the virus from one of her patients.

In February, personal protective equipment (PPE) was still not a must for medical personnel and health workers.

Larrazabal said when Huang’s health went downhill over a week ago, her situation affected the morale of hospital personnel, especially with news of doctors in Manila succumbing to the disease.

Now, her fellow doctors and fellow workers at CDH consider her their “happy pill.”

“Her positivity and determination is a big attribute for being Covid-negative. Grabe iyang fighting spirit aside from we having good medicines on her,” Larrazabal said.

He said Huang’s recovery should serve as an inspiration to other patients to continue fighting.


Larrazabal said they were dealing with Huang’s situation while facing challengers faced by other hospitals in the world, especially on manpower. 

“Daghang doctors wa na nag-clinic while other doctors who are on-call refused to go to the hospital. Nurses went AWOL. Siguro wa na kasabot. Ang uban, di na sugtan sa ilang families even how much we try to explain to them that they are well protected. We provide them good PPE, a place to change before going home. Proper nourishment. Di pud namo sila mapugos kung dili gyud sila,” Larrazabal said.

(Many doctors have stopped going to their clinics. Others who are on-call refused to go to the hospital. Nurses went AWOL. Maybe they do not understand. Others were no longer allowed by their families to go to work no matter how much we explained that they are well protected. We provide good PPE, a place to change before going home. Proper nourishment. We cannot also force them if they will not work)

Fortunately for CDH, graduates of its medical school have chosen to help the hospital by manning its online hotline, another first for Cebu.

Owing to lack of personnel, especially nurses, Larrazabal said CDH’s infectious disease team’s policy changes from time to time in terms of nurses’ rotation and quarantine time for them should they have more than five minutes in contact with a full-blown COVID-19 patient.

“For our nurses and other frontliners, it’s a case to case basis. Not automatic 14 days quarantine. Depende sa assessment nila,” he said.

(For our nurses and other frontliners, it’s a case to case basis. They won’t be placed in quarantine for 14 days automatically. It will depend on the assessment on them)

This is also reportedly the case of nurses abroad.

CDH has established its Acute Respiratory Infection+Diarrhea (ARID) triage and a holding area for COVID019, the first in the Visayas and Mindanao. It has become a model adopted by some local government units in establishing their own cluster clinics for early detection.

The hospital has enough ventilators, Larrazabal said, but emphasized the need for manpower to be able to utilize the machines properly. One ventilated patient would need a dedicated nurse attending to the patient’s needs.

On regular days, one nurse at a private hospital can attend to 12 to 15 patients while a nurse at a public hospital can attend to 40 to 50 patients.


With such a tough situation, Larrazabal said he is thankful to the hospital’s workforce, especially to the frontliners who are facing the fight head on.

He joined authorities in appealing to the public:

“The best thing is really to stay at home. Let the disease die down. For patients, be honest. For those who have enough, you can donate PPE or food to the frontliners and the less fortunate… Please help in any way you can,” he said.  JMO (FREEMAN)

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