Lacson, Villanueva support call vs shortened quarantine period for health workers

By HANA BORDEY, GMA News

Published January 10, 2022 6:20pm

At least two senators on Monday sided with medical frontliners who are protesting against the shortening of isolation and quarantine period for fully vaccinated healthcare workers.

In a text message to reporters, Senator Joel Villanueva urged the Department of Health to reconsider its latest policy on healthcare workers infected with COVID-19.

“Cutting short their isolation puts at risk both healthcare workers and patients they care for in our medical facilities. Not only does it endanger our healthcare workers, it also puts at risk their families whom they go home to after their shifts,” he said.

“As we’ve seen in the nearly two years of the pandemic, the path to recovery knows no shortcuts.,” the lawmaker noted.

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson said, unless there was evidence to support the DOH’s policy, he would take the side of the medical frontliners who are appealing the matter.

“Health is everything, especially with the almost uncontrollable spread of the virus that we are seeing now,” he said.

“That said, I will take the side of some concerned health workers unless there is sufficient science-based data to support the Department of Health’s directive,” he added.

Last week, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved shortened quarantine protocols for medical workers who are fully immunized against COVID-19.

“Hospital infection prevention and control committees are authorized to implement shortened quarantine protocols of five days for their fully vaccinated healthcare workers consistent with health care capacity needs and individualized risk assessment,” part of IATF Resolution 156 reads.

Nograles made the announcement a day after hospitals raised concerns about being short-staffed amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Illogical, unscientific

The Alliance of Health Workers, however, opposed the government policy as stipulated under DOH Circular 2022-002 Section E.

“AHW believes that shortening the duration of isolation for the health workers with positive cases – asymptomatic, mild, and moderate will pose further danger to the health and safety of health workers as well as the patients and will further accelerate the proliferation and spread of infection,” the AHW said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Furthermore, the policy made by the DOH, IATF, and Duterte administration to create a distinction between the general public and the health workers on the number of days of isolation of COVID positive cases and quarantine days of those with close contacts to COVID positive is illogical and unscientific because the virus that infects the general public is no different from the virus that infects the health workers,” the medical group added.

AHW further accused the Duterte administration of not being “sincere in addressing the sad plight of the health workers,” calling the circular “completely inhumane and unjust.”

“They called us modern-day heroes but in reality, we were treated as modern-day slaves as they continuously exploited us in this time of COVID-19 pandemic,” AHW president Robert Mendoza was quoted as saying.

The medical group also called on the DOH, the IATF, and the Duterte administration to implement mass hiring of health workers with permanent positions, conduct free, regular, and mandatory RT-PCR tests, provide sufficient and proper isolation and quarantine facilities, provide enough PPEs, and release the Meals, Accommodation and Transportation benefits from the period of September to December 2020 and January to June 2021.

Apart from these, the AHW demanded the provision of P5,000 full and not prorated special risk allowance to all public and private health workers every month regardless of the employment status, increase in the salary of nurses and Grade 1 health workers, and provide COVID-19 compensation for every infected health worker.

Aside from AHW, Filipino Nurses United also protested against the recent DOH directive.

On Monday, the Philippines for the second consecutive day, logged an all-time high new COVID-19 infections with 33,169 cases, bringing the total caseload to 2,998,530. — DVM, GMA News

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