Protecting Filipino Healthcare Workers from COVID-19

A partnership between International Care Ministries, De La Salle Medical & Health Sciences Institute, and the Canadian Government will boost hospital workers’ safety during the pandemic

Healthcare workers bear a much greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, with 15% of all coronavirus cases in the Philippines being hospital or health care workers as of DOH’s latest tally in June. An internationally-developed training series launched this July aims to share best practices from around the world on how to protect healthcare workers in the country’s hospitals and other urban and rural health care settings.

The seven-part video training series was produced by International Care Ministries (ICM), a Filipino NGO, in partnership with the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and De La Salle Medical & Health Sciences Institute to develop the guidelines.

COVID-19 has taken a toll on our healthcare workers. This training series will give them guidelines for better protection from the virus.

“Healthcare workers are working tirelessly to care for COVID-19 patients. So training to improve adherence to infection prevention practices is important to limit transmission within health care settings,” said ICM’s Director of Research, Dr. Lincoln Lau.

The series, funded by a Canadian government grant, contains in-depth guidance on patient care, hospital layout, and staff safety and wellbeing. Doctors and academics from the universities both in the Philippines and internationally contributed content.

Producing the video series under strict quarantine regulations was a challenge for the team. Artist Kuh Ledesma partnered with ICM to provide a safe shooting location at her property for demonstrations, and lecturers recorded their sessions remotely. The entire training can be completed online through ICM’s website, allowing hospitals to provide expert instruction to their staff even while physical lectures cannot take place.

Hospitals in two provinces have been selected to pilot the training series, with Bacolod Queen of Mercy Hospital and Lopez District Farmers Hospital in Sagay, Negros Occidental; and Pagamutan ng Dasmariñas and De La Salle Health and Medical Sciences Hospital in Dasmariñas, Cavite launching the series this week.

Frontliners face many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic that not only assault our physical well-being but also our mental health,” said Dr. Eden Pe Mesias of Lopez District Farmers Hospital. “As the Medical Director, I have to protect the safety of our health workers. We already have shortages of manpower in the hospital and most are exhausted from extended hours of duty.”

In this fight with an invisible enemy, health workers run the risk of contracting COVID-19 and infecting others through breaches in their protection and processes. They have to ensure they wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE), they properly disinfect themselves after treating a patient, and infectious medical waste has to be properly disposed of.

ICM works across the Visayas and Mindanao, and since 1992 has reached 1.4 million of the poorest Filipinos with health, livelihood, values, and education programs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, its efforts shifted to providing food relief, and to bringing training for healthcare staff through its medical partnerships.

“The ICM training on COVID-19 is timely and relevant,” Dr. Mesias said. “Health workers trained and properly equipped in the knowledge of COVID-19 can mitigate the hazards of morbidity and mortality of this pandemic.”

International Care Ministries (ICM) is a faith-based NGO with a mission to free the Filipino ultra-poor from the bondages of poverty. Operating since 1992, ICM has graduated over 1.4 million Filipino family members from its four-month anti-poverty training program called Transform. ICM is manned by 500 full-time staff (98% Filipino), primarily located in twelve bases in the Visayas and Mindanao. Field bases are supported by the national program office in Manila. For donations and more information, visit www.caremin.com.

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