Lying COVID-19 patients caused deaths among doctors, DOH says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 27) — Patients who did not fully disclose their state of health or COVID-19 symptoms exposed doctors to the disease and led to several deaths, the Department of Health said Friday.

DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire admitted that among the reasons behind the death of nine medical doctors is lack of information, as some did not know they were treating a person with the novel coronavirus.

"Some of them (doctors) died because their patients were not able to disclose their full information, thereby giving them that increased risk that's why they got infected and eventually died," Vergeire told CNN Philippines' The Source.

Among the frontliners who passed away during the COVID-19 war are Pampanga health chief Dr. Marcelo Jaochico, cardiologist and internist Raul Jara, young cardiologist Israel Bactol of the Philippine Heart Center, anesthesiologist Gregorio Macasaet III of Manila Doctors Hospital, and oncologist Rose Pulido of the San Juan de Dios Hospital.

The problem is not unique to the Philippines, the Health official said, as other countries have also seen frontline health workers succumb to the disease after getting infected by patients they were attending to.

One-fifth of the country's 45 deaths due to the coronavirus are doctors.

Vergeire added that some healthcare workers contract the disease as they lack protective gear, similar to what the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. said on Thursday.

Vergeire admitted that it's hard to secure supplies of personal protective equipment or PPE due to a global shortage as other countries scramble to get hold of these safety gear for their own frontliners. The DOH is in touch with the private sector for increased production as well as PPE donations, which are now being rationed to both public and private hospitals.

"We should have the PPE. Second would be we need to be very,very sure that we are implementing our infection prevention and control procedures," Vergeire added. "Once there’s a breach in protocol for these control procedures for infection, there becomes that risk for our healthcare workers to be infected."

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Meanwhile, the health official said that it would let other state agencies determine possible complaints or charges against Senator Koko Pimentel, who breached his self-quarantine protocol to attend two parties, visit a grocery store, and enter the Makati Medical Center before eventually testing positive for COVID-19.

"We have recommendatory powers, but sanctioning is the mandate of other agencies as well," Vergeie said, adding that enforcement of quarantine procedures is the job of other members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

A private lawyer has said that he will file charges against Pimentel for the ruckus. The senator has apologized to the hospital, but said that he really had to accompany his pregnant wife as she is about to give birth.