Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 10) — The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Filipino Nurses United (FNU) expressed their dismay over the government’s recent decision to allow hospitals to shorten the isolation and quarantine period for health workers who test positive for COVID-19 or become a close contact.
Last week, the Inter-Agency Task Force authorized hospitals to forego quarantine for fully vaccinated health workers without symptoms but considered a close contact of a patient. If health workers contract COVID-19, the shortened protocol allows them to undergo isolation for only five days instead of the previous 10 days.
FNU Vice President Eleonor Nolasco told CNN Philippines many health workers were unhappy with the new directive meant to ensure there are enough health workers amid an ongoing spike in coronavirus infections.
“Itong shortened quarantine period marami talaga nag protesta on the ground kasi hindi talaga ito safe at nagiging convenient excuse lang ito sa ating gobyerno na instead mag augment ng manpower dahil shortage ng nurses at hospital staff,” she said.
[Translation: A lot of nurses on the ground are opposing this shortened quarantine protocol because this is not safe. The new protocol also provides a convenient excuse for the government not to conduct mass hiring of health workers and augment the shortage of manpower.]
Nolasco added that at least 500 of their member nurses contracted COVID-19 during the surge. Some of them prefer to take their time off rather than going to work to make sure they will not infect their co-workers or patients.
“Sa ngayon talagang overwhelmed ang ating nurses sa ating forefront talagang nararamdaman ang atake ng virus lalo nat marami nang nagkakasakit. Dapat mag set up ng protective at safety measures hindi pwedeng lagi silang ginagawang bala sa tuwing may surge,” she said.
[Translation: Our nurses are overwhelmed now due to the spike in COVID-19 cases. The government should set up protective and safety measures for health workers and not use them as pawns every time there is a surge]
Alliance of Health Workers leader Robert Mendoza also slammed the shortened protocols, saying health workers should be given the same treatment in terms of isolation and quarantine. He added that asymptomatic patients can also transmit the virus.
“Nakakagalit po kasi hindi naman kami immortal. Ang health workers tao rin kami mga health workers at hindi namin maintidihan bakit magkaiba ang distinction ng health workers sa general public eh magkasama naman tayo riyan,” Mendoza said.
[Translation: We are angry, we are not immortals, we are humans. We cannot understand why there is a distinction between health workers and the general public.]
“Bibigyan ng 10 days ang mamayan. Ang health workers bibigyan ng 5 days. Anong pagkakaiba ng kalusugan namin,” Mendoza added.
[Translation: The general public gets 10 days and we are given 5. What’s the difference between our health? ]
For the general public, the government requires a 7-day isolation for fully vaccinated and 14 days for unvaccinated or partially unvaccinated close contacts.
The FNU and AHW said they will not stop from doing frontline services but they will continue to air their opposition to these policies that are detrimental to the safety of health workers.
The Health Department has yet to address the concerns of the health workers and nurses’ groups.