We’re facing a nursing crisis, again
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - July 8, 2020 - 12:00am

Before I went to bed last night, I saw on Facebook what appeared to be a news report by the World Health Organization (WHO) of a woman who said that asymptomatic people with COVID-19 have a very rare chance of infecting other people. To this, I felt meant that social distancing was not necessary. Then I went to bed and slept. In the morning, while making this column, I went to the WHO press releases and somehow I didn’t get that piece of news anywhere. So was that a fake news broadcast using WHO logo?

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  It’s already nearing four months since we had a lockdown by the end of March and, believe me, we are already tired and weary of this lockdown, which forces us to stay at home in order not to get infected or infect people. I just read the news that over a hundred local nurses have expressed their intention of resigning from work or going on absence without official leave, triggering a further shortage of medical workers on the frontlines in the badly-hit city of Cebu.

The Philippine Nurses Association-Cebu Chapter came up with the figure after recently distributing goods and supplements to nurses who are under isolation in different quarantine facilities in Cebu. There were those who have, in fact, already resigned or gone AWOL, but PNA-Cebu president Dr. Joseph Stephen Descallar could not give their exact number as the information is confidential for most hospitals.

It seems that we are back to the same situation last December when all the private hospitals in Cebu had a major crisis losing their much-needed nurses, which forced these hospitals to downsize by shutting down one or two floors, mostly wards because they no longer had nurses to run them. Mind you, this happened just before the whole nation was forced into a lockdown due to the COVID-19 crisis.

As I read in The FREEMAN, a 32-year-old nurse working in a private hospital at the North Reclamation Area echoed the Descallar’s sentiments. “Each day is a test of survival,” she said in an online chat. “You want to push yourself to just work, work, work because that's what you have sworn for but the present conditions are just different and scary. A day won't pass without someone dead.”

As Dr. Descallar pointed out, the anxiety is further compounded by low salary in private hospitals, understaffing, and the absence of hazard pay for nurses. “Nurses’ salaries in private hospitals are meager. Some private hospitals are not giving them hazard pay. Plus they are operating under-staffed. They’ve been really overwhelmed since some nurses are also under quarantine after being exposed to the patients.”

To help alleviate this potential problem, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella earlier announced that the city government would give an incentive of P10, 000 to each health care worker in Cebu City’s private hospitals for a period of three months. This is indeed a welcome move, however three months have already passed since April and this means the city must add more funds for our nurses.

At this point, we can only sympathize with the PNA and hope that the national government would somehow come in and help them in whatever way they can be helped. The bigger problem is that IT companies also want to hire nurses being paid by US salaries, while staying in their homes. This adds to the problem we are having these days.

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It seems that the cure for the COVID-19 is not coming soon and worse, there is a sharp rise in infected cases from all over the country. However, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque maintained that the Palace sees reopening the country's economy as the only option for now. Indeed, the Philippine economy has already grounded into a halt and the only businesses that are up and running are those that serve the food needs of our people.

However, the bigger problem that we face is that the majority of our people need to work in order to earn their living and if they cannot work, this means they won’t have the money to pay even for food supplies.

This is why Roque said, "We really have no alternative, because our economy has been pushed to the edge. All of us need to start working." At this point, we have to find out if the IATF can find the proper balance in reopening our economy and keeping our people safe.

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com  or vsbob-ita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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