[FIRST PERSON] I am BAY PX-95, and I want better for our frontliners

Roy Padrid
[FIRST PERSON] I am BAY PX-95, and I want better for our frontliners
'I refuse to believe that a vaccine is the only way to stop our medical frontliners' agony'

I am Roy Padrid (BAY PX-95) from Bay, Laguna, and I am a COVID-19 survivor. I stayed for more than a month in an isolation facility, and saw the plight of the people who fight this virus for us. 

I have seen frontliners struggling. I have seen how they passionately do their job even though they are already tired inside their PPE suits. They always text or call their patients to check up on them. Even the kuya in the facility tasked to deliver our meals is rigorous in his routine.

Outside the quarantine facility, I have also seen medical technologists render overtime on the streets, in the puroks and eskinitas, as part of their extended fieldwork for contact tracing. They conduct rt-PCR tests on all probable COVID-19 positives in select households, government workplaces, and the like. 

Of course, we all salute our frontliners. We put them in the limelight for fighting this pandemic. But this should not be the only way to praise them. We need to give them the right compensation and benefits. They all have to be well-paid and insured, regardless of which office they belong to. 

I refuse to believe that a vaccine is the only way to stop our medical frontliners’ agony.

Our frontliners’ rights

I asked the frontliner attending to me why they conducted tests on weekends or beyond office hours. I also asked them if they were being paid for overtime. Sounding down, they said they had to work beyond office hours because of irregular testing schedules and the long list of people to be tested, since our municipality still had a limited testing capacity per week. And no, they were not being paid extra. 

Needless to say that even before this pandemic, our medical workers were already underpaid and overworked.

In response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in our municipality, our LGU had to hire additional medical technologists, nurses, and other health workers to attend to the needs of our community. Most of them are underpaid, either emergency hires on a contractual basis, or regular workers who do not receive the right compensation.  Although they all have their corresponding hazard pay (which vary according to classification), they are all still in danger, susceptible to too much work because of the situation.

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“Nagkakapilitan nalang kahit wala namang overtime pay at bihirang bigyan ng offset day(s) ang frontliners dahil daw government,” said one of the attendants.

But while our LGU has additional nurses, medical technologists, and other health workers, we only have one designated doctor for the entire municipality. And I have never seen the doctor inside the isolation facility. He is said to render his duty inside the RHU (Rural Health Unit), and systematizes response coordination for COVID cases, especially in far-flung communities. But whether this coordination is systematic and efficient remains questionable, considering that our municipality has yet to get on the zero local transmissions list, and our number of cases is on the rise.

Dying facilities

While we are personally helpless in improving our medical frontliners’ situation, the national government just assures them that everything will be back to normal when we get the vaccine. But if we all just wait for the vaccine, this may kill a municipality’s basic health services.

Our LGU, for instance, is doing its best to contain this virus, working hard to implement different community guidelines from the IATF. They have managed to provide a decent isolation facility for COVID-19 patients, with nurses who check on us every day. (The nurses inside the facility are said to be the best compensated because they are from the DOH regional office.) Outside the isolation facility, the other frontliners, who are either from the RHU or Barangay Health Centers, are always preoccupied conducting tests and contact tracing. This means other health services for the entire municipality have been compromised. 

Some services at our RHU and Barangay Health Centers – which are said to be the most accessible public health facilities for pregnant women, PWDs, newborn babies, and other health vulnerable sectors – were reportedly stopped, including vaccinations for infants and family planning programs. Health checkups are also limited to non-COVID symptoms, and prescribing medicines is not accommodated because of a lack of medical professionals. 

Because of this, I refuse to believe that the only way to fight this pandemic is with a vaccine.

If we make everybody wait, it will just prolong everybody’s agony. Our medical frontliners will be taken advantage of for a much longer time, and will receive even lesser compensation.

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We need to have checks and balances on the small administrative division, municipal, and barangay levels. We need to determine how practical, consistent, and cohesive their implementations are.

Our municipalities and barangays are the people’s first line of defense, and are also the most accessible. And If we all just wait for the vaccine, it will compromise and weaken the pre-pandemic health services they have, particularly in small municipalities like Bay, Laguna, where I’m from. Worse, it may even paralyze our health facilities altogether.

If every LGU keeps spending more and realigning their budgets to answer the ever-increasing needs of this pandemic without any comprehensive instructions and practical plans on the national level, we will all be in danger. –

Roy Padrid, 22, is a BA Communication Arts student at UP Los Baños. He is the current Chairperson of the Sangguniang Kabataan in Brgy. Dila, Bay, Laguna.

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