DOH sends experts to Middle East to check OFWs' MERS status

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) sent health experts to the Middle East on Monday, May 26, to check on the status of Filipino health workers deployed to countries with rising cases of MERS Coronavirus.

The experts, both from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, will visit selected hospitals in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and other Middle East countries to review hospital protocols affecting Filipino health workers. 

"They're going to look into some selected hospitals, yung prosesong ginagawa dun kung bakit nagkakaroon ng hawaan sa hospital,” Health spokesperson Lyndon Lee Suy said in a press briefing Monday.

(They’re going to look into some selected hospitals and the processes implemented to check why MERS infection is happening in hospitals.)

They will also check on hospitals’ practice of infection control, and whether health workers are being treated well and provided with personal protective equipment. (READ: PH warns OFWs about Middle East virus)

"They would like to sit down together with their counterparts in hospitals there on how to improve the working conditions of Filipinos there,” Lee Suy said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Both health experts will be back Sunday, June 1.

The Department of Foreign Affairs recently reported two new cases of Filipinos who died of MERS in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This brings to 5 the total number of Filipinos killed by the virus.

The MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus is a highly fatal, influenza-like illness characterized by fever, cough, and often with diarrhea. (READ: FAST FACTS: The MERS Coronavirus)

As of Friday, May 23, the World Health Organization reported a total of 635 laboratory-confirmed cases, with 193 deaths worldwide.

Check deployed health workers

Lee Suy noted more than 50% of health workers based in the Middle East are actually Filipinos, which is why there is a growing concern for Filipino health workers there.

"Kaya lang mas maraming narereport lately concerning not because more Filipinos are being assigned at isolation wards, but because there are more Filipinos who are working in these areas,” he added.

(There are more reports concerning Filipinos not because more Filipinos are being assigned at isolation wards, but because there are more Filipinos who are working in these areas.)

The department requested recruitment agencies to check on their deployed health workers in the Middle East at least once a week. This could also help DOH in getting more information regarding MERS. (READ: MERS alert: 11 things OFWs should do)

Lee Suy said there are still no deployment and travel restrictions to Middle East countries, but the department will come out with a strategy for Filipinos who will attend the Hajj pilgrimage later this year. –

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.