Doctor at National Center for Mental Health Appeals for Help for Overwhelmed Hospital
Hospitals and medical facilities in the coutry are overwhelmed by the continued increase in cases of the coronavirus. Many are reporting a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), and worse, their own doctors and nurses have fallen ill or are being quaratined for exposure to those who have shown symptoms of COVID-19.
Perhaps one of the worst-hit is the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) in Mandaluyong City. According its website, the NCMH is “dedicated to delivering preventive, curative and rehabilitative mental health care services.” It is widely considered the premier medical institution specializing in mental health in the country.
A GMA News report said that 28 staff members of the hospital have already tested positive for the coronavirus. There are also 297 persons under investigation (PUIs) and 181 persons under monitoring as of April 5. Six patients have tested positive for the virus while three of them have died.
Meanwhile, 50 out of the hospital’s 83 psychiatrists and psychologists are already undergoing self-quarantine.
One doctor at the hospital spoke to Esquire Philippines on the condition of anonymity. The doctor is one of thise on quarantine after being exposed to people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and developing symptoms such as a cough and sore throat.
The doctor says reports that the situation is dire at the NCMH are accurate.
“First and foremost, we lack personal protective equipment for all the staff,” the doctor tells Esquire Philippines. “We have been relying on donations for these. Second, when we started having PUIs and PUMs, our consultants planned on adapting a skeleton work force so as to avoid exposure of our inpatients from infection that could be brought from outside of the hospital by staff, also so that manpower would not be depleted in cases of exposure. It was only last Friday (April 3, 2020) that this was finally approved by the medical center chief, when most residents, consultants, and staff are already on quarantine and positive cases have been on the rise.”
Another problem, the doctor adds, is the inconsistencies in following the DOH protocol for assessment and evaluation of PUIs and PUMs.
“The DOH protocol mandates that healthcare workers even with mild symptoms should get swabbed, yet, it does not happen in NCMH,” the dotors says. “We have staff who were classified as PUMs who were swabbed, and PUIs who did not get swabbed.”
An NCMH official quoted in the GMA News report also lamented the hospital’s shortage of PPE and medical supplies.
“Others are afraid to report because they don’t have PPE,” NCMH chief administrative officer Clarita Avila told GMA News. “We lack the logistics. We lack the supplies to protect them. Parang pupunta sila sa giyera na wala naman silang baril (It’s like going to war unarmed).”
“We understand that there is a shortage for these items but the reality is that the PPEs we have been receiving are still not enough for the number of staff the Center has at any given shift,” the doctor. “We need more PPEs and test kits as the reason we are not being tested is due to the limited number of test kits available.”
The doctor who is on quarantine for 14 days needs to be cleared before being allowed to report back to work.
“But I do plan on going back to work at the soonest possible time,” the doctor says. “As I have mentioned, the number of doctors in the hospital are dwindling. Before this pandemic started, the doctor to patient ratio is quite high, given that we have thousands of patients while there are only 83 doctors in psychiatry. We are all needed there, as our patients deserve utmost care and protection, especially at this time when most of them have no idea as to what is happening outside and even within the confines of the hospital.
“And for those patients who have a grasp of the pandemic, imagine the stress this gives them. If it already makes us more anxious and fearful, what more for them?”