Frontliners hit with COVID-19 draws questions on safety and equipment

May. 27, 2020

Photo from Department of Health’s Facebook page

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A total of 28 health frontliners and staff of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) has fallen ill of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), their report said Monday.

SPMC Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Ricardo Audan said in their online press briefing that of the 28 cases, 13 are doctors, seven nurses, and six are administrative staff. Four of them are currently admitted to the hospital, while seven are placed in a quarantine facility in Queensland, Matina Aplaya.

Audan noted that 15 of these cases have recovered, while two have died.

SPMC has tested its 1,661 health workers and staff, and 440 test results are still pending.

The World Health Organization in April has expressed alarm on the high incidence of infection among healthcare workers in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DOH) reported as of May 26 that 2,437 health workers nationwide have been infected with COVID-19, and 1,193 have recovered and 31 dead. 23 doctors have died nationwide.

Improper use or lack of correct PPE?

The DOH is looking at possible factors for the spread of infection among frontliners, and point out the shortage of personal protective gear (PPE), its improper use and disposal, and the increasing number of COVID-19 cases overwhelming the healthcare system as factors.

“We are very strict in terms of PPEs. However, we are looking into the doffing of the personal protective equipment. As they remove the PPE, disinfection should be done in every movement and there should be a spotter for that,” Audan explained.

Audan also cited the possibility of precautionary health protocols not religiously practiced once they leave the hospital and stayed in homes or facilities.

The Coalition for People’s Right to Health pointed out the shortage of correct PPE’s and improper donning procedures as possible reasons for infection in healthcare workers.

The health group cited the scarcity of N95 masks, and that the KN95 masks that are widely used may not confer the same level of protection.

“Fit test and seal check is a part of the donning procedure to ensure that there is no leakage infiltration of the virus for health workers at risk for exposure,” the group added.

Meanwhile, Audan revealed six nurses have resigned from the hospital in the months of March and April, most of them citing personal reasons such as the need to attend to their families first. But Audan noted they had new hiring that replaced the nurses. (

comments powered by Disqus