Damned if you get Covid, damned if you don’t

THE threat of Covid-19 is not as real to me as it is to other people. Unluckily, some of them know someone or of somebody who contracted the coronavirus and/or, even sadder, who were pronounced dead from it. Unluckier are the very ones who got infected, are currently experiencing symptoms or might possibly die from its complications. Despite the ever-increasing number of positively tested individuals in the Philippines, I thank God that neither myself nor any one of my family, close relatives and good friends have had or succumbed to this disease.

Yet, I only recently found out about a fraternal twin sister of a friend of mine who passed away not from Covid-19, but because of it. A few months back, she gave birth to a daughter and had a slight infection from her second Caesarean section. Her gynecologist gave her a prescription for antibiotics. As fate would have it, the consequence of her childbearing got worse that she, her husband and my friend went to several hospitals for her to be admitted.

None of these medical establishments wanted to take her in, giving Covid-19 as the “reason.” One of them said their hospital beds were already filled to capacity for coronavirus patients. Another said that their human resources for health personnel were already overburdened with them, and they were too understaffed to give her the best medical care. A third said that her case was not that severe; therefore, she could just keep taking her medicines. And the rest pretty much gave them the same or similar “excuses.”

My friend is only 19 years old and his brother-in-law is 21; thus, little did they know that the Department of Health (DoH) has mandatorily prescribed the administrators of these hospitals to allot 30 percent of their beds for Covid-19 patients. Hence, they were entirely clueless that there should have still been some space available for their loved one. They were also so naive that they gave the hospital staff the benefit of the doubt when the medical personnel refused to admit my friend’s sister by asking them to look for another place where she would be adequately attended to and by recommending instead her continued medication. They kept on searching until she died.

They were also unfortunately the least bit knowledgeable about the rights of the patient – the first of which being the “right to appropriate medical care and humane treatment.”As the Magna Carta of Patient’s Right and Obligations Act of 2017 clearly states, “(e)very person has a right to health and medical care corresponding to his [or her] state of health, without any discrimination and within the limits of the resources, manpower and competence available for health and medical care at the relevant time. The patient has the right to appropriate health and medical care of good quality. In the course of such, his [or her] human dignity, convictions, integrity, individual needs and culture shall be respected. If any person cannot immediately be given treatment that is medically necessary he [or she] shall, depending on his [or her] state of health, either be directed to wait for care, or be referred or sent for treatment elsewhere, where the appropriate care can be provided. If the patient has to wait for care, he shall be informed of the reason for the delay.”

Any Filipino who knows or reads the above will agree that my friend’s deceased twin sister was denied such a right. Not only was she rejected to be accommodated in a ward, but she was also never sent nor, at the least, given any referral to an accommodating and non-discriminating hospital. She was – and is – definitely not the only casualty during this pandemic. The government is reassuring the public that there are only very few deaths directly due to this coronavirus, but they are not informing everyone that there are thousands more casualties indirectly related to it.

On a corresponding note, top PhilHealth officials have excused themselves from a Senate investigation for serious medical reasons. Had they been denied the same right, they may not be alive to begin with to attend this hearing. And had billions of pesos not been stolen from this government agency set up to implement universal healthcare coverage in the country, maybe my friend’s sibling and many others, sick from Covid-19 or something else, would still be alive now.

Jerick Aguilar

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