It all began in Wuhan, the most populated capital city of Hubei in Central China at more than 10 million people, in December of 2019. Suddenly, Corona virus disease 2019(Covid19) hit Italy, thus declared as pandemic by the World Health Organization as outbreaks in other countries like the US, Spain and India among others, were reported.
It didn’t take long to reach Philippines shores when the Department of Health reported the first three cases from Chinese nationals and followed by the first two Filipinos on March 6 this year.
However, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, III was quoted by Rappler as saying, ‘it’s premature to say that there’s local transmission,’ as the department started to do contract tracing for people in contact with the initial five positive cases.
In a statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said “the government should not give the public false sense of security because the dangers of local transmission is real.”
By March 16, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered the Enhanced Community Quarantine for the entire Luzon island which restricted movements of the population with some exemptions.
Theo order came only two days after the same was ordered in Metro Manila, a move to contain the outbreak of Covid 19.
Through all these significant events, the health professionals in this country readied themselves for any eventuality. Suddenly, they were faced with a health crisis they never experienced before which forced them to go back to basics of health care.
Prior to Corona Virus disease, medical doctors are into their standard medical routines and practices. “A patient comes in, we examine, give them their medicines or prescribed the same and off he goes after seeing us,” Dr. James C. Guzman, Tuguegarao City Health Officer and Philippine Medical Association Governor, said.
But that medical landscape totally changed when DOH reported the first five cases in the country. “We know how it will be and we prepared ourselves. We have to innovate health care procedure and practices as we have to be extra careful,” Guzman said. In the past, as a medical doctor, the eagerness to help people is in him without thinking of their own health safety during consultations.
This is because his profession requires not only purity of the soul and thoughts but self-sacrifice; a feat in itself.
“With the advent of Covid19, we want our patients now to be truthful as to what is their medical background or health conditions, where were they before coming to us or any travel history. Who were with them and who were those in close contact with them,” he added.
Then, the fear started to creep in not only among the ordinary Filipinos but the medical profession itself as news of doctors tested positive of the virus began to hang their gloves permanently; the virus claimed the very individuals who should save the lives of the people.
“We have our fears not only for us but for the other members of the medical profession, the nurses, the midwives and the others. We have to be extra careful now,” Guzman admitted. He blamed patients who do not tell the truth to their doctors on this scenario.
As frontliners, the medical professionals are exposed to people on a daily basis. These are the people the doctors knew nothing about unless they speak about themselves.
“We have to protect ourselves now because we have to protect you,” Guzman, somewhat with a gnarled voice, added. With or without a health crisis, to lose a doctor particularly those serving the local government units is of significance if one considers the average ratio of only one Doctor for every 20,000 residents in a municipality.
“If we lose a doctor to Covid19 or quarantine a doctor because his patient infected him, who will take care of the population? Who will do what he does? You can’t suddenly train a person in this field,” he stressed.
The scenario, then, creates a medical services vacuum and in the end, the void is bigger as it will take time for a new doctor to be trained. The balance between the medical profession and the community they serve is, thus, lost.
At the height of the crisis, the doctor said he still reports to office but observes a “little more care” for himself like the rest of all front liners. He noticed that despite protocols on locked down, people tend to ignore these orders and insisted on going out from their homes.
During one dead of a night, people like those manning the checkpoints called him for referrals. While he pitied those 13 individuals who insisted on entering Tuguegarao, he said his heart goes too, to those health workers who were likewise quarantined for attending to the people involved in the first Covid19 positive case in the Cagayan Valley region, thus, also in the city.
It was of his longest nights as a medical doctor; he had to call and agency for the temporary quarantine procedures while medical examination is on the process.