By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – About 232 Filipino nurses and frontline health workers have died in the service of patients afflicted with COVID19 in the last seven months of 2020, a leading Filipino nurse union leader said.
Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, based in Oakland, shared this information during Parangal, a digital tribute to Filipino workers on Friday, October 23, 2020. Cortez, who had been serving as a nurse for 40 years in the US, said that Filipino nurses give a highly personalized dedication to patients.
“It is inherent in our culture that we treat our patients like family. We are also very hardworking, often the last to leave the workplace, hence we are asked to give more time for work than any other nurses,” opined Cortez who was the first Filipino president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the US.
The initial lack of personal protection equipment in the months of April, May, and June this year had caused exposure of nurses to the coronavirus, she noted.
Asked if the union can file a class suit against the health hazard they encountered during the pandemic, Cortez said that it was possible to take a legal route but would require a lot of documentation work to prove that the nurses contracted the virus at work.
“The hospital administration would always assert that we got the virus from the community and not in the hospital. So we need to prove that,” she explained during the forum.
The contribution of Filipino nurses, reputed to be devoted to provide personalized care for patients, to the US Healthcare system has had a long history that dates back to the American colonial past.
In the same forum, Philippine history, literature, and language professor Noel Pangilinan noted that Filipino nurses dominate the healthcare system of the US because of the colonial ties of the Philippines and US.
The first nursing school, called the Iloilo Mission Hospital, was established by the Americans in Iloilo City in 1901. In 1905, the American Red Cross set up a Philippine branch that furthered the training for Filipino nurses and doctors.
“Of course, it is not just historical. It is also by the heart that Filipino nurses have gained prominence because of their dedicated service,” said Pangilinan, who teaches Philippine history at the College of Mt. St. Vincent and Filipino language at Rutgers University.
Adolescent psychiatry nurse Nella Pineda Marcon, meanwhile said that with the resurgence of the coronavirus in the fall, protective and health measures for frontline workers needed to be in place. One in every four Filipino immigrants in the US is a nurse.
Parangal was organized by the Philippine International Network for Advocacy and Solidarity in time for the annual celebration of the Filipino American History Month. PINAS was convened by Fr. Julian Jagudilla, executive director of the Migrant Heritage Center at St. Francis Church in Manhattan.
There are currently over four million Filipinos in the US, the largest home country for Filipinos living abroad. #