Displaced by COVID-19 pandemic: Tragic tales of discrimination against health workers and frontliners

March 27, 2020 - 4:07 PM
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This March 27, 2020 photo shows a dorm in Tandang Sora Quezon City that houses health workers or frontliners for free. (The STAR/MichaelVarcas)

The Department of Health recently warned the public against discriminating health workers after testimonies of doctors and nurses being kicked out of their residences for the fears of being infected by the novel coronavirus made rounds on social media.

Health and emergency workers are among those in the front lines of the battle against the rapidly spreading COVID-19.

Several veteran and well-loved Filipino doctors have already succumbed to the deadly disease this month. These include Dr. Sally Gatchalian, Philippine Pediatric Society president and Dr. Rau Jara, an esteemed cardiologist, among others.

Aside from the health risks to the fatal disease, some health workers have also faced discrimination from landlords and neighbors who fear them since the nature of their jobs entailed being exposed to COVID-19 patients.

As of March 27, the health department reported 707 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 45 deaths and 28 recoveries.

Of the confirmed cases, the high-ranking government officials who tested positive of COVID-19 are Senators Miguel Zubiri, Koko Pimentel, Sonny Angara,  and House committee on  ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Yap, 

Stories of discrimination

On Monday, Facebook user Adrian Franco shared that his sister who is a nurse at a hospital in Quezon City got kicked out from an apartment she previously rented due to potential contamination fears of her neighbors.

My name is Adrian Franco and I am an OFW here in Thailand. I am writing this post for my sister who is currently a…

Posted by Adrian Mari Franco on Monday, March 23, 2020

 

Because of the enhanced community quarantine, Franco’s sister has also not been able to come home to her child and their family in Bataan.

“It is disheartening to know that the very people you swore to serve and protect are the same ones who will discriminate and would wish to render you homeless in the middle of this global battle,” Franco wrote on the Facebook post.

Last Wednesday, Franco told Interaksyon that his sister already found a new place to stay.

Another online user also shared on Facebook that her former student, now a doctor, similarly experienced being evicted by his landlord because he was handling COVID-19 cases.

The user told Interaksyon that the post eventually reached the landlord and other tenants involved in the incident.

The doctor, who declined to be identified, have already found a new home by then.

Joey Lapeña a doctor at the Philippine General Hospital specifically asked Manila Mayor Isko Moreno for help. He claimed that a landlord charged him for rent despite their private clinics being closed.

Lapeña tagged the mayor’s official Twitter account on his tweet.

Other online complaints, meanwhile, claimed that some frontliners were doused with water also due to infection fears.

“A condo admin in the city texted their tenants askung if there are frontliners living in the condo. May isang nurse tinapunan ng tubig ng pedicab driver,” @Tom_MD_ said.

When these posts made rounds across social media platforms, Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said that such concerns have already been brought up to the COVID-19 inter-agency task force.

She then appealed to the public to support the health care workers and not discriminate them.

“Hindi po ito ang panahon para talikuran natin ang ating healthcare workers. Sila po ay nag-iingat pa rin para hindi makapanghawa ng iba. So sana po ‘wag naman po natin itong gawin sa ating mga healthcare workers,” Vergeire said.

Available shelter for health workers

Vice President Leni Robredo, for her part, addressed the discrimination against health workers and offered them free  near Cubao, Quezon City.

The initiative was in coordination with Angat Buhay partners including Jay Ignacio of Rotary Club of San Juan del Monte, Spouses of Rotary Club of San Juan North, and Matrix Appliances PH.

Health workers who want to avail of the free dormitory should contact the Office of the Vice president and send their details through ovpfreedormservice@gmail.com and mobile number 0998 591 7408.

 

The Iloilo city government also recently offered the Iloilo City College as housing for the medical personnel of the Medical City Iloilo after it received reports of discrimination against them.

The nurses, resident doctors, and even security guards were told to leave their respective boarding houses and were refused services in eateries over fears of infection.

“I have been receiving messages today that our fellow Ilonggos who are in the medical field are discriminated against. Buses reject them, karinderyas (eateries) won’t sell to them, their landlords evicted them. We should not allow this to happen,” Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said.

Moreno, meanwhile, ordered several motels and hotels to provide accommodations to health workers working at the hospitals located within the city of Manila. These temporary homes are free of charge for them during the duration of the quarantine.

This measure was made to help health workers avoid long-hour travels after all forms of public transportation were halted amid the implementation of enhanced community quarantine in Luzon.

Pasig and Makati City governments likewise converted some hotels into quarantine facilities for frontliners.

Kapamilya actress Angel Locsin and her friends also managed to set up air-conditioned tents for health workers in Taguig City.

The Philippine Coast Guard in Taguig City thanked Locsin on Twitter for the initiative.

“Nagpapasalamat ang PCG Task Force Laban COVID-19 sa aktres na si Angel Locsin sa ibinahaging niyang pagkain habang sila ay nagpapatrolya sa Lakeshore, Taguig City ngayong hapon, 22 Marso 2020,” the PCG Twitter account said.

The World Health Organization recognized the risks the health workers face on a daily basis, who are are in the frontlines of the pandemic.

WHO enumerated their rights in an official document titled “Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Outbreak: Rights, Roles and Responsibilities of Health Workers, Including Key Considerations for Occupational Safety and Health.”

These include the right to be provided with adequate protective gear, security measures for personal safety, access to mental health and counselling resources.