LEYTE, Philippines – The Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) Magsaysay branch and the main hospital in Calabawan, Tacloban City, announced a temporary closure of their emergency rooms on Tuesday, June 16, after 18 frontline health workers tested positive for the coronavirus.
The test results of 4 other health workers from the Leyte Provincial Hospital also came back positive.
The affected staff members are a mix of doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, among other workers.
The EVRMC is the end-referral hospital for COVID-19 patients in the region.
The hospital announced the closure of its emergency department on Tuesday, until further notice.
Minerva Molon, regional director of the Department of Health-Eastern Visayas, said that they will disinfect the hospital during the closure.
The 22 hospital workers were among the 59 new cases in the region announced on Tuesday. Fifty-two (52) of those were from Leyte alone.
Many of the new cases are residents who were stranded in the cities or overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were allowed to come back to their hometowns under the Balik Probinsya and Hatid Probinsya programs.
Balik Probinsya is a program of the national government meant to help those working in the cities or ex-OFWs go home to their provinces for good. Beneficiaries of this program get a cash allowance and livelihood assistance in addition to transportation back to their towns.
Leyte was one of the pilot provinces of the recently-suspended program.
Hatid Probinsya is another program to help locally stranded persons who were stuck in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu during the lockdown get back to their home provinces. Other OFWs are being sent back to their home provinces as well through a separate effort by the national government in coordination with local government units (LGUs).
Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez had earlier called out national government agencies’ lack of coordination with LGUs in the implementation of the Balik Probinsya program. (READ: Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez slams government’s Balik Probinsya program)
Residents who flew in or came by bus to Eastern Visayas from Metro Manila and Cebu were supposed to be tested before leaving the cities, but many of those who were tested in Leyte still yielded a positive PCR result. (READ: Disorganized repatriation program puts E. Visayas rural healthcare at risk)
Prior to the arrival of residents through the Balik Probinsya and Hatid Probinsya programs, Leyte province only had two coronavirus cases on April 24. Both of the cases were from Burauen town.
The province went over a month without new cases until two returning residents from Leyte tested positive for the virus on May 28, when the first batches of returning residents arrived.
The total number of confirmed cases in Leyte province shot up to 46 by June 11, to 138 by June 13, and to 195 by Tuesday.
The entire Eastern Visayas recorded a total of 264 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. Most (195) of the cases are in Leyte.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has a total of 26,781 coronavirus cases, with 1,103 deaths and 6,552 recoveries. – Rappler.com
Eiver Villegas is a student journalist from the University of San Jose Recoletos in Cebu City. He is currently in Leyte where he is originally from.