FORT MAGSAYSAY, SANTA ROSA, NUEVA ECIJA (1 SEPTEMBER 2020) — As the country continues to scale up its healthcare capacity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental well-being of patients must also be given priority.
Dr. Roberto Salvador, Jr., Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) Deputy Director, said there is a need to address the mental health issues faced by those confined in treatment centers.
Salvador, along with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., and regional health officials, sent off 230 mostly Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from this treatment facility at Fort Magsaysay on Tuesday.
Managing anxiety and stress
He said using a “holistic approach” to help treat COVID-19 patients has been proven to be more effective.
Salvador said there is a need to effectively manage the stress and anxiety levels of asymptomatic patients to hasten their recovery. This is to ensure that their immune system is healthy and prevent other health issues from occurring.
The 478-bed facility, which was originally meant as a drug rehabilitation center, features air conditioned rooms and free Wi-Fi, and is manned by around 50 medical staff.
Salvador shared what sets the facility apart from others in terms of its healthcare approach.
“Pagsakay pa lang nila sa bus going here, ino-orient na namin sila kung anong dapat i-expect nila, na wala silang dapat ikatakot,” Salvador said.
“Once they are here, malaya namin silang nilalapitan at nakakausap, with proper protection of course. Sa ibang lugar daw, pinandidirihan at kinatatakutan sila. Ayaw silang lapitan,” he added.
The COVID-19 task force eyes to use Fort Magsaysay as a model isolation facility which other LGUs can replicate, Salvador noted.
Aside from this location, the BoQ also manages the mega quarantine facility at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. These facilities accept not only OFWs but also patients from Metro Manila.
“Dito lang daw po kasi sila nakakita na ‘yung mga lumalabas ng quarantine facility, puro nakangiti,” Salvador said.
He admitted that he and his staff have developed a strong bond with their patients.
“After their 14-day quarantine, you see some patients shedding tears and thanking our staff,” he said.
Positive attitude, key to recovery
During the sendoff, Galvez noted the positive attitude of the “graduates,” who have been discharged from the facility.
“This pandemic has already affected us not only physically, but also economically and emotionally. Many patients that I have encountered, talagang umiiyak at tumatawag sa amin for help. Itong psychological impact and stigma of being rejected by their families is a very serious matter, and we need to focus on it,” he explained.
“Nakikita ko po sa mga mukha ninyo ‘yung perseverance na kayo ay gumaling mula sa sakit, at ‘yung tuwa na makakauwi na po kayong ligtas sa inyong mga pamilya,” Galvez said.
As chief implementer, Galvez has advocated against home quarantine. This has led him and other members of the NTF to visit local government units in various parts of the country to push for the establishment of more isolation facilities in those areas.
At present, the government has implemented “Oplan Kalinga” under the leadership of Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Chief Testing Czar Secretary Vivencio Dizon.
Oplan Kalinga is a program launched by the national government to accommodate COVID-19 patients who do not have their own room and own toilet where they can isolate themselves, or for those who have household members who are elderly, with existing diseases, and pregnant women. This is to reduce the risk of more infections in the household and communities, and to identify and isolate infected individuals in proper isolation and quarantine facilities.
Currently, the Oplan Kalinga has more than 3, 000 beds to accommodate patients.
Galvez said the 600-bed capacity Nayong Filipino in Parañaque City will be opened next week.
He said this will boost the National Capital Region’s treatment capacity. The Nayong Filipino is being built in partnership with billionaire Enrique Razon.
Vince Dizon, Deputy Chief Implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19 earlier said that the quarantine center at Nayong Filipino will cater patients from Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.
On top of this, Galvez said another mega quarantine center is about to open in Calamba, Laguna that could accommodate 553 patients.
Meanwhile, Galvez also acknowledged the bravery and dedication of medical frontliners, who were wearing their personal protective equipment (PPEs) during the event.
“Your service to our people is immeasurable. Thank you for going beyond the call of duty. Just as you are taking care of our sick, the government is here to take care of you,” he said.
PRRD to frontliners: We will take care of you
During a televised address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte told frontliners to coordinate with the office of Galvez, in case they get evicted from their homes or places where they are currently staying.
For his part, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III assured the medical frontliners that their welfare will be prioritized by the government.
“Makakaasa po ang ating healthcare workers na ating binabantayan ang kanilang health and safety,” he said.
Also present during the event were Health Undersecretary and treatment czar, Dr. Leopoldo Vega, and Department of Health Central Luzon Regional Director, Dr. Cesar Cassion. ###