Medical group cites protective equipment lack for death of 17 doctors

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) - There are now 17 doctors who died while in the frontline battling the highly-infectious coronavirus disease, said the Philippine Medical Association (PMA).

The latest figure came a day after President Rodrigo Duterte thanked frontline health workers who died while helping COVID-19 patients.

However, PMA Commission on Legislation chairman Dr. Oscar Tinio believes that the deaths could have been prevented if there is enough supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the health workers.

“Ang death rate ng mga doctor na namamatay (The death rate among the doctors) versus the total death is about 5%. It’s going to go up,” said Tinio in a phone interview with CNN Philippines.

He added, “Why do you have to let us die? When there are still ways that we can prevent it? Parang gera yan. Laban kami, pero huwag niyo kami pabayaan. (It’s like a war. We will fight, but don’t leave us without anything)”

Among the frontliners who passed away fighting COVID-19 are Philippine Pediatric Society president Sally Gatchalian, cardiologist and internist Raul Jara, anesthesiologist Gregorio Macasaet III, and oncologist Rose Pulido.

The Department of Health on Monday said that it is currently waiting for the delivery of the ₱1.8 billion worth of PPE to be given to public referral hospitals for COVID-19 in Luzon.

For his part, health workers are not feeling a “sense of urgency” in the government’s response to the crisis.

Tinio, who is also the director of St. Dominic Medical Center in Bacoor, Cavite, said that it took the DOH more than a week to respond to his request for additional PPE.

Adding to his frustration, only 14 pieces of bodysuits were delivered which will only last a day to a day and a half at the most.

“Yes, there are standard operating procedures that we need to follow but can we not do away with that at this time? Health emergency ito,” added Tinio.

The World Health Organization reiterated its stand that protective masks should be only worn by those who are sick and taking care of patients, recognizing the shortage of PPE in the market.

Further, Tinio pointed out that many practicing doctors with various specialties want to help in the war against COVID-19. But they are hesitating because of the lack of protective gear.

“The first and foremost is bigyan mo kami ng proteksyon, haharapin namin ‘yan,” Tinio said.

[Translation: First and foremost is give us protection, we will face against that.]

For now, Tinio said most hospitals are now relying on donations from private groups and individuals.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report