DOH probes alleged understaffing in hospitals as COVID-19 infects almost 4,000 healthcare workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 20) — The Department of Health said on Monday that it is looking into complaints of understaffing in some hospitals, including the state-run San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

“Titingnan natin natin iyang hinanaing nilang iyan sa iba’t ibang ospital natin para makita natin kung ito ay totoo,” DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum, reacting to one of the issues raised by a nurses’ rights group.

[Translation: We are going to look into complaints of alleged understaffing in different hospitals to see if this is true.]

No quarantine leaves

Jaymmee de Guzman, a nurse from the San Lazaro Hospital and the treasurer of the Filipino Nurses United told CNN Philippines in an interview that some of their staff who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients cannot afford to go through quarantine due to shortage of relievers.

“We don’t have quarantine leaves because of the understaffing,” she said.

“After our swab test, we even have to report to duty the next day while waiting for our results,” de Guzman added, as she noted “the alarming rise of employees getting infected.”

De Guzman -- who handles critically ill COVID-19 patients -- shared she is among the medical staff who cannot avail of paid quarantine leaves.

DOH said that as of July 18, the total number of healthcare workers affected by COVID-19 is 3,938, 712 of which are active cases. Of the active cases, 218 are from DOH referral hospitals, more than half or 148 of which are from Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City. 

The department added that of the number, 35 medical personnel from San Lazaro Hospital are currently sick.

Ulysses Arcilla, a nurse and the president of San Lazaro Hospital Employees Association said last week that 80 health workers in San Lazaro have caught the coronavirus, resulting in one death.

Vergeire admitted that healthcare workers deserve respite, too, as she assured them that they are exerting efforts to hire additional medical personnel who will be deployed in healthcare institutions amid the COVID-19 crisis.

"Pinag-i-igting natin ang pag-ha-hire para madagdagan ang mga tao sa ating ospital," she said.

[Translation: We're striving to hire more medical staff to increase the number of workforce in hospitals.]