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Daughter of nurse sues Cainta hospital chief over mother's COVID-19 death

The daughter of a nurse who died of COVID-19 has filed an administrative complaint against a government hospital chief in Cainta, Rizal, accusing him of having "a dismissive attitude" towards her mother's coronavirus infection.

In a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday, October 8, Joie Cruz sued Cainta Municipal Hospital (CMH) administrator Dr Antonio Jayson Sierra for gross neglect of duty, and wants the doctor fired or at the very least suspended.

The result of an administrative complaint, if found guilty, is either suspension or dismissal with perpetual disqualification from public office. Cruz did not file a criminal complaint against Sierra.

"Complainant respectfully prays that the Office of the Ombudsman recommend the removal and/or suspension of respondent from public service," said the complaint.

Joie's mother Theresa, a CMH nurse and among the hospitals frontliners in the pandemic, died on July 22 due to coronavirus complications. Theresa died 3 days after getting her coronavirus swab test.

'Dismissive attitude'

"In our own investigation, we discovered that Dr Sierra showed a dismissive attitude towards my mother's request for a COVID-19 test on all 3 occasions that she was exposed to a positive patient," Cruz said in a separate statement.

Cruz said her mother asked for the more expensive, but more reliable swab test after being exposed to a coronavirus patient. Cruz said CMH did not provide her mother a swab test, which the latter got at a private hospital.

"On several occasions, Dr Sierra also chastised and berated my mother when she expressed her concerns about the COVID-19 situation in CMH. To add to this, she also had to purchase her own personal protective equipment (PPEs) because the hospital was unable to provide her with a PPE that fits her large frame," said Cruz.

Joie also said the Department of Health (DOH) had told her that her mother's death "was not reported to the Epidemiology Bureau."

Cruz said she is pushing through with the suit because "our mother’s story is not an isolated case."

"My mother’s untimely death and the rest of our fallen heroes who fought in the frontline should not remain as mere numbers. Their sacrifice is an inspiration to us and health workers to assert for just conditions in workplaces," Cruz said.

"We anchor our unwavering hope in this legal battle [on] our mother’s journey and dedication in serving the public health sector," she added.

Theresa's tragic story, which Cruz shared on social media, went viral. Her mother's hazard pay for 60 days – which her family got after her death – only amounted to P7,625, much lower than the P30,000 that Theresa had expected, based on earlier official pronouncements of the DOH that promised a hazard pay of P500 per day for government frontliners.

The difference in amounts had to do with President Rodrigo Duterte's  Administrative Order (AO) No 26, which allows agencies to lower the rate if they have insufficient funds.

CMH lowered its hazard pay rate to P300, but the AO also provides that personnel who already receive regular hazard pay shall get coronavirus hazard pay too, "whichever is higher."

Because of that, the CMH deducted Theresa's regular daily hazard pay rate of P239 from the P300 coronavirus hazard pay. That meant Theresa only got a P60.93 daily hazard pay as a frontliner.

Duterte had already promised the Cruz family P1 million, as provided for under the now-expired Bayanihan Law 1 for fallen frontliners. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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