If a person saves a life, they call him or her a hero. If a person saves a thousand lives, they call him or her a nursing attendant.
Two nurse attendants in Pampanga were among the trending topics on social media Thursday after a photo, showing them taking a nap while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), became widely circulated.
A resident doctor, Kaydee Magsino-Santiago, described the nursing attendants, identified only as Ronnie and Jazzel, as “unsung heroes” in the photo that she shared on her Facebook page.
“Caught our nursing attendants at 1 a.m. taking a quick rest and I am not even sure if it really was a rest. Took them only minutes, got back to work with no sleep, drenched in sweat under their PPEs.”
She narrated: “I have seen them work the entire day, from cleaning and disinfecting of rooms to transporting patients from one floor to the other. From changing diapers to changing oxygen tanks of countless patients.”
“From janitorial, to nursing aid to medical work (helping us monitor patients), I have seen how committed our nursing attendants are. But you know what is best about them, they are filling in [for] what every COVID-19 patient needs, a family member. I have seen them interact and treat each patient as their own. I have seen how patients appreciate each one of them.
“They are our unsung heroes. They are the unseen essential workers. They are my heroes. I can’t imagine working in the pandemic without them. They work with a low wage yet give the best of their efforts.”
She then addressed the two nursing attendants in a mix of Filipino and English: “You are the best. I have not heard a single complaint about you. I salute you Sir Ronnie and Sir Jazzel and all the other [workers on] this battlefield. A thank you will not be enough but know that behind every patient sent home, a huge part was because of you.”
In an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo, Dr. Monserrat Chichioco, the hospital’s medical chief, said the health workers were just taking a break after the facility went on full capacity last week, with 97 to 98 percent of its COVID-19 bed capacity occupied.
She said the hospital is at 90 percent bed capacity, with 71 out of 82 beds of its critical care unit occupied.
“These kinds of patients need the utmost attention. When it comes to oxygen supply, this is the most taxing to our nurse attendants, which is why I salute them. They would rest for a bit then they would have to change the oxygen supply of our patients,” Chichioco said.
“At the minimum, they wear their PPEs for one to two hours when they do rounds on their designated patients,” she added.
Chichioco explained that nurses and nursing attendants at the hospital are assigned to a seven-week duty.
A number of hospitals in Metro Manila and nearby provinces announced they can no longer accept patients, saying all beds at their facility are fully occupied.
In Angeles, the city government shortened the working hours of nurses detailed at the Rafael Lazatin Memorial Medical Center to give medical workers enough rest.
The RLMMC formerly Ospital Ning Angeles (ONA), a government hospital, has 183 nurses working 40 hours each for every week, said IC Calaguas, the chief tactician of Mayor Carmelo Lazatin.
“We’re doing this to prevent burnout and over-fatigue of our nurses who are taking care of our COVID 19 patients,” Calaguas said. Calaguas said the salary and wages of nurses at RLMMC have been raised by about 35 percent and another 28 percent through hazard pay. She said PPE are issued free daily. Those who exceed the 40-hour a week will be covered as overtime, Calaguas said.
Metro Manila hospitals, meanwhile, are still overwhelmed, as hospital officials said that the two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed over the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjacent provinces was not enough.
The government declared an ECQ from March 29 to April 11 aimed at lowering the transmission of the virus.
St. Luke’s Medical Center chief medical officer Dr. Benjamin Campomanes, Jr., in a report on “24 Oras” on Wednesday, said hospitals are still struggling amid the rising cases of COVID-19.
“We see so many people around. It’s very difficult for everyone,” Campomanes said.
Philippine General Hospital (PGH) spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario said extending the modified ECQ imposed in the NCR Plus beyond April 30 will help decongest critical care facilities.
“Extension of the MECQ, to us, will probably help in further decreasing the transmission, hopefully. And then, [fewer] people will get hospitalized,” Del Rosario said.
The Palace on Thursday said the government will increase the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms to ease the community quarantine classification.
In a virtual press conference, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said augmenting ICU beds plays a “crucial” role in the declaration of new quarantine status in May.
“Having additional ICU beds is crucial if we want to downgrade the quarantine classification and further reopen the economy,” Roque said in Filipino.
Roque noted that 65 percent of the 1,900 ICU beds in the country are already in use.
In the National Capital Region Plus (NCR), around 82 percent of 700 beds have already been used, he said.
Covid-19 testing czar Vivencio Dizon, who joined Roque during the press briefing, said hospitals in the so-called NCR Plus, which covers Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, have promised to provide 176 more ICU beds.
The government is also looking forward to having 200 more ICU beds, on top of the promised 176 ICU beds by hospitals in NCR Plus, Roque said.
“We are really focusing on augmenting ICU beds because if we are able to do that, we can further reopen our economy,” he said.
NCR Plus, as well as the Abra and Quirino provinces and the City of Santiago in Isabela are under the more restrictive modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until April 30.
Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao City, Lanao del Sur, and Quezon are placed under a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ).
The rest of the country remains under a modified GCQ. Roque said it is still “premature” to speculate about the quarantine status that will be imposed next month.