Doctors’ groups to govt: Metro Manila needs ECQ ‘timeout’ now

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More than 80 medical societies in the Philippines on Saturday urged the government to reimpose an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on Metro Manila for the next two weeks as confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continued to spike, warning that they were fighting “a losing battle.”

GIVE ME A BREAK While it may be unfair for healthcare frontliners to simply be told to do their jobs well in spite of exhaustion and the danger of fighting ‘a losing battle,’ they continue to selflessly and painstakingly test and treat possible Covid-19 patients as seen in this June 2, 2020 snapshot. THE MANILA TIMES FILE PHOTO

In an open letter signed by Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) President Dr. Mario Panaligan and read by Philippine Medical Association (PMA) President Dr. Jose Santiago during a livestreamed conference, the groups called on President Rodrigo Duterte to reimplement stricter lockdown measures in the capital in order that frontliners could recalibrate their anti-coronavirus strategies.

“We have witnessed a consistent rise in [the] number of infections and this, among other scenarios, prompts us to act now and act fast,” the organizations said, citing the temporary closure of the state-run Ospital ng Maynila and Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital on account of the still-growing number of infected health workers and Covid-19 patients admitted there.

Medical workers are feeling burned out, they added, telling the government that the country’s “healthcare system has been overwhelmed.”

“We are waging a losing battle against Covid-19, and we need to draw up a consolidated, definitive plan of action. Hence, we, as your health care frontliners, call on [the] government to return Mega Manila to ECQ…from August 1 to 15,” the letter said.

“We propose that the two-week ECQ be used as ‘time out’ to refine our pandemic control strategies” and address such issues as hospital workforce and efficiency, failure in case finding and isolation, and in contact tracing and quarantine and transportation and workplace safety, it added.

“We need to reenergize and refresh again so that we can really continue to fight against Covid-19,” Santiago said.

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soared by 4,963 to 98,232, of which 30,928 are active. Of the total, 65,265 have recovered and 2,039 succumbed to the disease, which first broke out in the city of Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province last December.

PCP Vice President Dr. Maria Encarnita Limpin warned during the conference that if the infection toll continues to escalate, the health care system, which the groups described as the “last line of defense” in the fight against the pandemic, would fail.

“[W]e are just asking for a timeout…para makahinga po kami at makapag-isip tayo [kung paano] ma-kontrol ang spread ng infection (so that we can rest and think of how to control the spread of infection),” Limpin said, referring to the proposed two-week enhanced lockdown.

“[W]e are basically asking for the President, for the government, na i-tighten up ang (to tigthen the) community quarantine. Otherwise, matatalo po tayo (we will lose),” she added.

Medical frontline workers should not bear the burden on who lives and dies if the health care system collapses, according to the groups.

“We understand that imposing an ECQ is a complex decision…but let us remember that we need healthy people to reinvigorate our economy,” they added.

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