We have so many things to thank for our frontliners. They have done and sacrificed so much including their own safety in order to fulfill their duties to their patients.
This year, the government is recognizing the heroism and self-compassion of medical workers in the country amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid19) pandemic by declaring 2020 as the “Year of Filipino Health Workers” through Proclamation 976 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte signed Proclamation 976 on July 6, as he noted that the Covid-19 crisis has posed a daunting challenge to the country’s health sector.
“There is a need to commemorate the immeasurable acts of heroism and selfless compassion of nurses, midwives, and all health workers, and give due honor to those who sacrificed their lives in the line of service, especially during this extraordinary time,” he said in the proclamation.
Under the presidential proclamation, the Department of Health (DOH) is tasked to lead, coordinate, and supervise the nationwide observance of the Year of Filipino Health Workers.
All other government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or -controlled corporations and state universities and colleges, are directed to assist DOH in implementing Proclamation 976.
All local government units, business communities, relevant civil society groups, and professional organizations are likewise enjoined to participate and support the DOH to ensure the effective implementation of the proclamation.
Proclamation 976 also encourages all national and local publications, television networks, and radio stations to promote awareness and generate public support for the programs and activities relative to the celebration of the Year of Filipino Health Workers.
“The State recognizes the invaluable contributions of nurses, midwives, and all other health workers, as the backbone of the country’s health system, whether in promoting health consciousness, performing essential medical and health services, or responding to health crises in various situations,” the order read.
“Thousands of Filipino health workers, who comprise a major component of the nation’s labor force, selflessly and tirelessly provide essential, quality, and critical care to individuals, families, and groups, even in the face of great peril, fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability,” it added.
As of today (October 17, 2020), the Philippines has recorded 352,000 Covid19 infections, with 295,000 recoveries and 6,531 deaths.
I’m reposting this article I wrote in 2004 about a doctor whose main mission in life is to assist people affected by calamities. One unforgettable story he shared was the medical mission in the typhoon-ravaged areas in Quezon Province in 2004.
FROM the 1990 killer earthquake in Baguio, Rizal Day Bombing in Manila to the aftermath of Typhoons “Winnie” and “Yoyong” in Quezon Province, Dr. Romeo Bituin has been there to help the dying and survivors of calamities.
The 47-year-old coordinator of Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital to the Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS) of the Department of Health, Dr. Bituin or simply “Starsky” to colleagues, has always felt the need to be in places where disasters took place.
“Hindi ko alam kung bakit dinadala ako ng Diyos kung saan may disaster,” Bituin initially told People’s Tonight.
To the man who has been in the medical profession for more than two decades now, no special occasion would delay the call of duty, not even his birthday.
So in the morning of Dec. 4, even before he could plan things for his 47th birthday, Bituin was flying with two male nurses and a utility personnel to the typhoon-ravaged areas of Quezon on board a military chopper to bring medicine and treat evacuees from several affected barangays in Infanta.
“When we left for Quezon, walang nakakaalam na birthday ko. Nagspend ako for the first time ng birthday ko sa disaster area. Ang sabi nga ni Dr. (Carmencita) Banatin, chief of HEMS,’ang swerte mo…ang dami mong natulungan sa birthday mo’,” the teary-eyed anesthesiologist said.
“Sometimes parang naging emotional ka rin doon (Infanta, Quezon)… masuwerte tayong mga taga- Manila hindi natin naranasan ang ganon pero nagrereklamo tayo sa baha lang. Baha lang ‘yon pwede kang lumangoy…sa mud hindi ka makakalangoy…mamamatay talaga ang tao,” he said while trying to control his emotions.
Bituin and his three companions were the first group of medical personnel deployed by the DOH at the height of typhoon “Yoyong” in Quezon.
“From Camp Gen. Nakar inairlift kami papuntang Infanta. It was one of the hardest hit ng typhoon. At least 29 out of 36 barangays in Infanta were affected. Sa Gen. Nakar at Real, may portions of road na pwedeng daanan, may ac cessible road na pwedeng dumaan ang tricycle. Sa Infanta wala, ang putik hanggang tuhod. Paglapag ng chopper, iba na ang amoy ng paligid. Masangsang… malansa… normal na sangsang ng patay. Marami raw na buried sa mud pero hindi nila alam kung saan,” said Bituin as he described the place.
Barefooted evacuees ran agog to the waiting helicopter for safety. But patients needing urgent medical attention were given priority to be airlifted to evacuation sites.
Bituin, being the leader of the four-man team, requested military personnel to secure the gym where they put up the makeshift treatment center and where team from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) handed out relief goods. Barangay officials assisted the group in listing down patients with priority needs.
The medical team from DOH provided antibiotics, anti-venom, anti-tetanus, IV fluids to patients needing them.
For four days, Dr. Bituin’s group attended to children who are severely dehydrated, patients with loose bowel movement caused by acute gastroenteritis due to lack of potable water supply, persons with punctured wound, lacerated wound in the eye and head, trauma, fractures, dog bites and snake bites.
“Ang mga evacuees kung ano ‘yung damit na suot nila nang marescue sila, ‘yun pa rin ‘yung suot-suot nila habang nagpapagamot sila,” Bituin recounted as he shook his head in dismay. “Siguro ang importante sa ngayon kung paano sila mabubuhay, ‘yung hindi sila magkakasakit.”
Bituin’s group also managed to help local hospital personnel run the lone health facility in the area, which is about a kilometer away from the gym near the Poblacion. The groups make do with available hospital equipments left of the flood aftermath. The nurses were able to save only a handful gadget since they primarily move the patients to higher portion of the hospital.
The hospital also served said as their place of rest at night.
“Main mission namin kung paano mapapatakbo uli ang hospital. Ang Infanta lang ang may district hospital. During normal times before the disaster sa Infanta dinadala ang mga pasyente coming from Real and Gen. Nakar. Walang electricity at tubig sa hospital. Walang linen. There was no communication at all in the area,” Bituin recalled.
“Mahirap din ang paglalakad sa municipality proper. Walang means of transportation. Ang mahirap doon may mga equipment ka pang dala at pasyente na kailangang i-evacuate to safer ground,” he said.
Bituin and the nurses settled with their meager food provision and sometimes relief foods given by evacuees themselves.
“For four days wala kaming lunch, we find time to eat late lunch and early dinner at every 5 p.m. Hindi ka makakaramdam ng gutom dahil ang gusto mo makapunta ka agad sa pupuntahan mong lugar. The city mayor was kind enough to assist us during our mission in Infanta,” he said.
Bituin, who granted the interview, before the emergency meeting of HEMS coordinators held at the East Avenue Medical Center last Friday, said that epidemic was indeed looming in the affected areas as he observed the lack of potable water supply and proper excreta disposal for both human and solid waste.
“Nang umalis kami marami na ang nagcocomplain ng acute gastroenteritis, matanda at mga bata,” he said.
The former military doctor said that as of last week two more response teams from the DOH composed of epidemiologists and sanitary engineers arrived in Quezon to help.
“Kumpleto na ang mga tao na nagsusurveillance ng mga sakit doon,” Bituin said.
The medicine graduate at the Perpetual Help College in Binan, Laguna, said that aside from medicine and food supplies, survivors need psychological help from experts.
“Kawawa ang mga tao doon, naglalakad sila ng nakatungo. May psychological impact sa kanila ang mga pangyayari. Kailangan nilang ma-debrief. We already sent people from the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) para iaddress ang depression at anxiety ng mga tao. Lalo na kung umuulan ng malakas…’yung mga tao takot na takot kasi baka bumaha daw ulit, ganun na ganon daw ang nangyari bago magkalandslide,” he said.
Bituin, who had disaster management trainings in the United Kingdom and the United States in 2001 and 2002 respectively, said that each person who survived the landslide and flood had harrowing experience to share.
“Nagtulungan sila,” referring to survivors, “‘Yung iba hinigit nila sa baha mula sa bubong ng bahay. Kahit hindi nila kakilala tinutulungan nila. Kaya marami rin sa kanila ang nakasurvive hindi kagaya sa Ormoc. Karamihan kasi ng bahay sa Ormoc noon ay gawa sa light materials. Sa Quezon, karamihan ng bahay ay may second floor kaya nakaakyat ang iba sa bubong ng bahay,” he noted.
The doctor from Fabella Hospital also shared what he learned from emergency management.
“Presence of mind is important. Ang unang isesave mo ay buhay hindi gamit. Dapat alam ng mga tao kung ano ang mga gagawin in times of natural calamities. May areas na dapat kung saan magkikita sa oras ng emergency. Dapat may mga drills, exercises for any kind of event gaya ng Iindo!, baha at landslides. Time is important… kailangan mabilisan,” he said.
For fellow medical workers in the same line of mission, Bituin has this advise: “Ang pinakaimportante huwag silang makalimot magdasal… ‘yung pakikipagkapwa-tao especially during these times. Dapat marunong kang makisama sa tao. Hindi lang para makiemphatize, kailangan may ginagawa ka rin.”
He further said, “Personnally, na-enhance ng experience ko sa Quezon ang kahalagahan ng pakikipagkapwa-tao. For every disaster or incident na napuntahan ko, there is a new experience, new lesson na nakakapagpadagdag sa wisdom mo. Although sometimes, kapag naaalala ko ‘yung mga nakita ko doon, nagiging emotional ako. Hindi ko maiwasan ang maluha para sa mga nasalanta sa Quezon.”
When asked if he would go back to Infanta for another medical assignment, Bituin simply smiled and said, “I’m planning to go back there next week. I’ll show the people there I’m true to my words. Gusto kong makita na masaya na uli sila , hindi na umiiyak, hindi na depressed.” – Miriam V. Torrecampo
December 26, 2004
The same article is also found in my other blog www.penname30.com
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Republic Act 11165 or the Telecommuting Act which allows employees to work from home.
The Telecommuting Act allows an employee in the private sector to work from home or an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication or computer technologies. The law aims to address traffic congestion and to promote work-life balance.
An employer may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis. The adoption of such scheme remains a prerogative of employers but the program should not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law on health and safety of workers, schedule and workloads, work hours and social security. An employer is required to ensure that a telecommuting employee will not be isolated from the rest of the working community by giving him opportunities to meet with colleagues and allowing access to company information.
Related article: Work from home is timely, beneficial to workers and business; Good for PWDs, women
The country’s largest workers group Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) applauded President Rodrigo Duterte for signing into law a measure allowing workers to work from home as alternative work arrangement in the light of heavy traffic congestion and poor mass transport system.
“After pending in both congress for so many congresses, Duterte’s signing into law allowing workers to work from home alternative work arrangement finally sets the clear parameters for both employees and employers who wants to jointly practice the scheme. This alternative work scheme will benefit both employers and their employees,” TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said.
He said those who work from home would be able save from transport and food costs. Employees would also be able to minimize stress caused by traffic congestion and ageing mass transport system.
Employers meanwhile would be able to minimize operational costs and ensure higher productivity from home working employee.
This will also widen the employment horizons for Person with Disabilities, senior citizens and working mothers who need not to report at work.
According to Mendoza, the alternative work arrangement will not change the 8-hour standard working time. There is also no diminution of wages and benefits including overtime pay, sick leave, maternity leave and all other benefits that employees have been receiving.
However, these rights must be ensured in the drafting of its Implementing Rules and Regulations spearheaded by the Labor department, workers and employers groups particularly workers’ right to form a union and collectively bargain are complied with.
Mendoza expects the IRR finished by March this year.
On one hand, the work from home arrangement is not applicable in other industries particularly those working manufacturing and services sector.