By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – One has to wrestle with this grim reality. One of every three reported Filipino fatalities due to the coronavirus pandemic in the East Coast is a front liner nurse and emergency staff.
Consul General Claro Cristobal said that of the 50 death reports received by his office (as of April 17, 2020), 18 were in the frontlines – nurses, doctors, and staff – constituting 36% of the reported deaths.
“That’s huge. That is one of every three deaths are Filipino frontliners. Fifty cases may not sound big, but 36% of those who died are our front liners. These are challenging times and we are affected badly,” Cristobal remarked during the first ConGen’s Media Hour to be on teleconference with the FilAm Press Club of New York on April 18, 2020.
New York remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US with 242,817 confirmed cases and 13,869 deaths (April 19, 2020 Health Department report). This week, the number of admissions to hospitals have lessened which was attributed to the community’s social distancing and stay-home practices, but the death toll continued to rise.
Among the fatalities were Susan Sisgundo, 51, at the Bellevue Hospital and Ali Dennis Guillermo, 44, who worked at the Long Island Community Hospital.
Filipino nurses constitute the bulk of immigrant nurses in the US. According to labor statistics, 16 percent of nurses in the US are immigrants, and nearly a third of those are Filipinos, constituting majority of immigrant nurses.
Cristobal noted that the lack of PPE is a major problem affecting the safety of frontliners. Nurses reaching out to OSM! have articulated their concern for the lack of PPE. (See related story https://justcliqit.com/ny-nj-covid19-cases-surge-medical-gears-continue-to-dwindle/)
RN Gem Scorp, in a separate teleconference on the coronavirus pandemic put together by the FilAms for Biden, revealed that he was found to be COVID19 positive and is self-isolating in a hotel room. “But I was being asked to report to work three days after my fever would subside,” he said.
Asked if it was safe to do, Scorp said he was not sure of that. “I was just told to report to work if I had no fever in three days. I don’t know what you will do if all COVID19 positive nurses will die,” he said.
The CDC guidelines using the Test-based strategy for confirmed or suspected COVID19 positive health care personnel states that: health care workers must be excluded from work until (1) Resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, (2) Improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and (3) Negative results of an FDA Emergency Use Authorized molecular assay for COVID-19 from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected ≥24 hours apart (total of two negative specimens).
Scorp said it was important to look at the working conditions of nurses serving not only in the ICU or ER but in nursing homes as well. He said the nurses in nursing homes normally cover 40 patients in their shifts, making them exhausted and more vulnerable to infection.
There are approximately 800 nursing homes in New York State. Government officials say the adult care centers account for 25% of the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic with Queens recorded the highest at 754 deaths, followed by Bronx at 554 deaths. (Data as of April 19, 2020).
Cristobal appealed to the communities here to report COVID19-related cases to the Consulate for accurate recording and so that assistance may be given if needed. He noted that the warden system, composed of designated leaders of organizations, is currently the source of information. “I continue to thank our wardens in the community and implore them to report to us the situation in their areas.”
Government officials here told the public to continue social distancing and hygiene measures: staying at home, washing of hands, and wearing masks and gloves when going out in order to continue to “flatten the curve” of hospital admissions.