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Philippine doctors among worst-hit Covid-19 casualties

Coronavirus kills at least 12 physicians, seven others are quarantined as pandemic reveals acute doctor shortage

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Philippine doctors among worst-hit Covid-19 casualties

A health worker (right) talks to an attendant on a shuttle bus after the government imposed enhanced quarantine measures against the novel coronavirus in Manila. (Photo: Ted Aljibe/AFP)

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The coronavirus has claimed the lives of 12 doctors in the Philippines, while at least seven are quarantined in hospitals after testing positive, according to the Philippine Medical Association.

The number of deaths among doctors accounts for almost 17 percent of the 71 recorded fatalities caused by Covid-19. 

“We are still grieving but at this point we cannot do anything about what has lapsed already, what has been done already,” Dr. Oscar Tinio, the association’s chairman, said on March 29 in an interview.

The senior health official said the deaths and quarantining of medical staff have made an acute shortage of doctors in the country worse, saying the ratio of doctors to patients in the Philippines was already very high at 1:40,000.

“This is way higher than the ideal ratio of one doctor per 10,000 patients,” Tinio said.

Many doctors have voiced concerns over a lack of protection on the front line

“We are willing to risk our lives to fight this pandemic. But we need help and cooperation from the government and from the public by staying at home and by giving us more masks and personal protective equipment (PPE),” said another doctor who wished to remain anonymous.

Many hospitals are relying on donation drives to help them and their health workers outside Manila after they complained of a lack of masks and PPE on social media.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is continuing its fight against the pandemic by conducting more Covid-19 tests nationwide. The Department of Health is conducting 1,000 tests per day, up from 300 last week.

“Let us expect that there will be more Covid positives because our testing capacity has also increased,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

Duque told the public not to expect the number of cases to immediately drop because the Philippines has just begun conducting more tests.

The government has also been working with Manila Archdiocese in sheltering not only street dwellers but also health workers fighting the pandemic.

“Our front-liners will be most welcome in the dorms and bedrooms of religious and diocesan formation centers and retreat houses,” said Bishop Ambo David, vice-president of the Catholic bishops’ conference.

The prelate, together with Caritas Kalookan, is also spearheading a food program in his own diocese.

He called those helping the program “foot soldiers” for being “brave enough to go out and deliver food to the poor so that they can stay home.”

As of March 30, the Philippines had recorded 1,418 Covid-19 cases with 71 deaths, according to government figures.

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