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Doctor urges 2-week NCR ECQ as ‘breather’ for exhausted frontliners

The government should again place Metro Manila under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), even just for two weeks, to give health workers a time to recuperate from exhaustion due to the non-stop admission of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Maricar Limpin said Friday.

"Ang gusto natin ay magkaroon muna tayo ng breather kasi kung mapapnsin ninyo, magmula nang nag-relax tayo ng community quarantine from ECQ to modified, doon nag-umpisa na umakyat ang dami ng nagkakaroon ng COVID-19," Limpin said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

"Nakakapagod na. It's time to really put a stop doon sa pag-spread ng infection. I know ang gobyerno natin nag-iisip kung papaano ang economy pero ano ang gagawin natin sa economy kung unti-unti namang nagkakasakit at namamatay ang mga Pilipino?" she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte retained the general community quarantine (GCQ) over Metro Manila until August 15.

A GCQ had also been declared over Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Cebu City, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Minglanilla and Consolacion towns in Cebu province, and Zamboanga City, while the rest of the country is under a modified GCQ.

Senator Sonny Angara warned that the economy will likely collapse if the capital region goes back even to just the modified ECQ.

‘COVID-19 numbers are reality for us’

Aside from physical exhaustion, many hospital workers are also experiencing depression, according to Limpin.

As of July 30, the number of infections in the country had reached over 89,000 after a record-high 3,954 new cases were logged on Thursday.

The COVID-19 cases in NCR numbered to 48,389 and 1,703 of which were recently added in just a day.

"Itong numbers na ito, these are not lying. 'Yang numerong 'yan, nararamdaman namin dito sa ospital," said Limpin, also a pulmonologist and critical care expert at the Philippine Heart Center.

"Hindi lang pagod ang pinag-uusapan natin dito. It's also depression, nade-depress na kami. Imagine, inaalagaan namin ang mga pasyente pagkatapos nakikita namin nag-iimprove tapos all of a sudden magkakaroon ng problema biglang mamamatay," she added.

Limpin further underscored that increasing the bed capacity of hospitals must come hand in hand with strengthening the health care workforce.

"It's not just a matter of bilangin mo ang available na beds. Mas kailangan madagdagan din ang number ng manggagawa ng kalusugan," she said.

The doctor hopes the government and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III would listen and act on the call of exhausted health workers.

"Ang ospital ho dapat ang the last line of defense pero kung 'yung last line of defense ay bibigay, ibig sabihin wala ho tayong panalo rito," she said.

University of the Philippines professor Ranjit Rye, who is part of the UP OCTA research team, also made the same recommendation to the government as he projected that COVID-19 cases in the country may reach 150,000 by the end of August.

"Naghihirap po sila ngayon, kailangan urgent po ang response ng government na dagdagan ho 'yung mga doktor, nurses, at health workers ngayon dahil may surge po talaga dito sa NCR," Rye said.

According to the DOH, the number of health care workers who want to enlist under the government’s emergency hiring program amid the pandemic has plateaued.

“Noong una, madaming nag-apply. Ngayon, pakonti-konti na. Nagpa-plateau. What I meant is, bumabagal ‘yung uptick ng mga gustong mag-apply, especially sa NCR (National Capital Region). We are looking at partnering with universities and other institutions para mas mabilis at makakuha tayo in batches,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. — DVM, GMA News