Take Quarantine Seriously, Infectious Disease Expert Warns Private Sector
In our earnest efforts to provide money, food, equipment, and supplies to help fight COVID-19, we are perilously close to losing the most critical factor of all: the healthcare workers.
In an interview with Esquire Philippines, Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, chair of the Tropical and Infectious Diseases Department at the U.P. Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH), shared her thoughts on how private companies can help ease the strain on healthcare workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Ong-Lim, doctors have been working night and day to stem the increase in cases of COVID-19, hoping it will be resolved sooner than later. She said the private sector must be prepared to sustain their efforts in helping out.
“Even if the problem stays with us for a long time, it would be manageable by the health system. But that also means there will be a greater demand on the health care system for some time,” said Ong-Lim.
The private sector should be ready to extend support for the long haul.
“As much as the donations and the support now is appreciated, people should also think about being able to sustain the support over a fairly long period of time, so that we can continue to give quality care. We need that mindset. Hindi ito katulad ng bagyo o baha, na pagkatapos, tapos na,” said Ong-Lim.
“Beyond thinking of providing supplies for frontline needs, such as personal protective equipment, alcohol, some basic hospital supplies, let’s also think about being strategic.”
"Hindi ito katulad ng bagyo o baha, na pagkatapos, tapos na."
What do doctors need most right now?
According to Ong-Lim, the most important necessity is to ease the strain on the hospitals, and the only way to do that is to “flatten the curve” or minimize the rate of infection.
“Beyond the personal protective equipment, we really need people to cooperate with the quarantine. It’s critical. Even if you keep providing equipment, protective gear, sanitation supplies, what we really have as the most finite supply is our staff. If healthcare workers get sick, no one will use that equipment and gear anyway. Who will attend to patients? No one.
She talked about a strategy of controlling the spread of disease especially among the 80 percent who have no symptoms or have mild symptoms.
"Even if you keep providing equipment, protective gear, sanitation supplies, what we really have as the most finite supply is our staff. If healthcare workers get sick, no one will use that equipment and gear anyway. Who will attend to patients? No one."
“From our understanding of how this disease attacks, the majority are those who have mild illness, about 80 percent of them, then 15 percent will present moderate symptoms, and 5 percent will be severe. But if you can manage to get those 80 percent with mild illness from spreading the disease around, then you can make a significant impact on the 15 and the 5 percent. Napakalaking tulong na noon sa amin.”
Hospitals are full, and many cannot absorb the influx of persons under investigation (PUIs), so this is where private companies can step in.
The private sector can provide or fund isolation centers
Ong-Lim emphasized quarantine is the most crucial solution to containing the disease and easing the strain on the health workers.
“We have to be very careful about exposing our elderly family members or our family members with other illnesses because they’re the ones who will be hardest hit.”
"But if you can manage to get those 80 percent with mild illness from spreading the disease around, then you can make a significant impact on the 15 and the 5 percent. Napakalaking tulong na noon sa amin.”
She admits not every household can accommodate this setup, which is why there is a need to put up temporary isolation centers for the 80 percent who have no symptoms or have mild symptoms.
“If you expand that to the community setting, that is where the private sector can come in. If possible, they could provide a setting for sick people to be out of their houses in a fairly supervised setting, that would be helpful.
“That is something that Pasig and Quezon City are doing. They are providing places for people who possibly have COVID-19 to be isolated outside of their homes so that they don’t keep spreading the bug around their community.
"That could be something that private companies can think about—can they provide the resources for that, can they support their LGUs for that? I think that may be one way we can make an impact so that fewer people get to the moderate and severe stages and requiring the help of hospitals which of course have limited capacities.”
Ong-Lim reiterated the importance of taking community quarantine very seriously.
“It’s a very challenging time. I think we just really need people to cooperate. It will be a real help for people to just stop going around, being exposed, it’s a makes a huge impact.”