Health workers refute Duque claim of regular COVID-19 testing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 13) — Medical frontliners are up in arms over a Cabinet official's claim they get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks.

In a meeting Monday night, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told President Rodrigo Duterte the government is making sure health workers are safe through regular testing, and that the infected are quarantined immediately.

Health workers, including the group Filipino Nurses United, refuted Duque.

Hindi po ‘yan totoo (That is not true),” Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of the FNU, told CNN Philippines’ Balitaan on Tuesday.

Marami po kaming miyembro na napipilitan magduty kahit hindi natetest (We have a lot of members who are forced to report to duty without getting tested),” she said. Some pay for their own COVID-19 test for their peace of mind, she added.

The exponential rise in COVID-19 cases has taken its toll on frontliners working for long hours for lack of manpower. Rest is a luxury, putting health workers at higher risk of catching the virus, according to the FNU.

Marami po kaming colleagues, members na pag nagduty po ng 12 hours, pag hindi po nakapasok ang kanilang mga kasamahan dahil may sakit, nag-eextend pa sila ng 16 hours. Kung minsan, 36 hours,” Andamo said.

[Translation: We have many members, who, after a 12-hour duty, have to extend for another 16 hours, or even 36 hours to cover the shift of infected colleagues.]

Infected health workers numbered 628 as of April 11, according to official data. A total of 16,510 health frontliners tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic. Eighty-six died while more than 15,000 recovered.

The FNU believes fatigue, personal protective equipment, and free mandatory testing are to blame for the continued rise in health workers getting sick.

“Hindi po community transmission ang main problem natin kung hindi ‘yung kakulangan rin ng protection ng mga nurses at iba pang health workers,” Andamo said.

[Translation: Community transmission is not the main problem but the lack of protection for nurses and other health workers.]