June 21st when my husband’s fever started. Given that we are in a health crisis and an invisible enemy, we isolated him right away praying that it was not yet too late to do so. We have no idea whether we caught the crown (COVID-19) and living in the epicenter of the Philippines’s COVID crisis (Cebu City), I was fearful of the vulnerable ones in our household comprising of two (2) senior citizens and one (1) with an underlying condition. Add our two (2) children ages 10 and 5.
The past week was very stressful, my husband’s fever was low-grade but soon he developed a mild cough. It was difficult to push him to take medicines more so to convince him to get tested. Yes, it was risky going to Cluster Clinics with long queues and exposure. More so going to the hospitals and getting tested. In this pandemic, the risk will always be high but the agony of not knowing was unbearable. On the 8th day of my husband’s fever, I urged him to get tested.
The first test we took was the Anti-body test or Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT), the clinic where we got tested used ONE STEP by Innovata test kit. The result came back for both IgM and IgG Antibodies negative. Since my husband was showing symptoms and his fever was still present on the 10th day, we went ahead with the RT-PCR Test. I could sense my husband’s uneasiness thinking of going back to government cluster clinics, I decided to contact the health insurance provided by the companies where we work (we do not work under the same company but we have the same HMO Provider). I was on the phone for entire morning trying to sort things out.
In order for us to get the Laboratory LOA (Letter of Authorization) from the HMO Provider, they need a doctor’s request indicating the need to do RT-PCR Testing and not just any doctor but an affiliate one. I contacted my children’s pediatrician after getting an online consult authorization. It is very difficult to get a doctor in our locality more so someone who will proceed with consultation and issue a lab request these days. We had a tele-consult and the doctor proceeded with giving us the laboratory request. When the request was sent (digital copy), I called up our HMO Provider to get the needed lab authorization. Over the phone, the agent asked for the digital copy from the doctor and had me send it to the email she provided. After a couple of validation, the approved authorization letter and the instructions were sent. We still needed to print it. I was glad we recently loaded the home printer with ink cartridges before another lockdown. I could no longer remember the number of lockdowns we’ve had.
Getting tested at the hospital was another feat. Going through the motions of having it processed at the billing and cashier was a series of back and forth referrals. The test was worth Php 10,430/person (USD 210). The health insurance covered for it but the amount was just huge. This is one of those times when you look up and say, “Thank God, I still have a job” but also feel sad for those who lost theirs. Having no income and no health insurance at this time. The gratitude I feel towards the company I work for is immense but also feeling down for the ones that had to shut their doors. It took an hour before the lab technicians took our swab samples, the nose swab was the most unforgiving one- it was painful and the uncomfortable effect doesn’t go away quickly. After the test, we hurried home as we were both hungry. I had to take a bath first when we got home and disinfected the stuff we brought with us including the interior of the car that we used. We were told to wait 2-3 days for the result and it would be sent to our doctor, the one who requested the RT-PCR Test.
Going through the motion of having to talk to the entire household which involves my husband’s family (mom, uncle, and sister) was difficult. Planning on strategies to better protect other members of the family. The past week was grueling and stressful. It’s not easy having someone in isolation at the same time carrying the fear of spreading the virus by missing to disinfect a surface or your hands. I think I have washed my hands more than I drink water in a day (and I drink more than 2 liters of water a day). The result of our test came out the next day, the same day my husband’s fever subsided. The results were negative for us both. Even though the family was relieved, I was not completely at ease. We decided, err, I decided to keep him in isolation until at least on the 14th day of his fever or more. This is a new virus and there is still so much we do not know about its behavior. Is it possible that he may have contracted a weaker version not showing on the tests? The test kits? I am not very certain of its reliability as they can never provide a 100% guarantee. Again, this is a new virus and so much is still unknown.
Alongside our experience, are the experiences of being on the phone coordinating with Barangay Health and Emergency Response Teams and Department of Health for procedures in getting an ambulance and care for people under my care. My work as an HR Professional also involves assisting our employees when they need emergency care these times. Finding out that certain local governments lack the personnel, basic equipment and facility for this epidemic is heart-breaking. Not counting the lack of empathy and sense of urgency in during emergencies. Hospitals denying patients and DOH Cebu City not picking up during emergencies on their emergency numbers. Our relatives being passed on by hospitals either due to lack of beds or lack of funds. But with this, hope is still present. We can press on and charge forward for the ones we love and the ones who needed our light. Know your own local health protocols and get informed on the available options for you.
We Filipinos, we are not new to a crisis- although this health crisis is a completely different level as it involves the entire nation and the world. We have known challenges and difficulties but we have also experienced a certain economic boom in the past 2 decades where employment was addressed by BPOs, income stream was generated by OFWs, and cities saw progression with businesses emerging alongside the demands of outsourcing. This crisis now heavily affected specific industries, hotels, and restaurants especially the niche ones, retail stores, manufacturing, and travel. The effects of these are felt by producers- farmers and fisher-folks who are losing big chunks of their clients. It’s a domino effect as economists say.
The government’s funding was replenished by trillions of dollars of loans from other countries but we see Barangay Isolation Centers with poor conditions and local government units with poor coordination and absence of emergency vehicles. Some local barangay health workers were reported showing less to no empathy to COVID-19 positive patients.
We Filipinos can stand difficulties and we are full of ingenious ways to survive but we deserve better than this. We deserve more cluster clinics that would be able to accommodate more with fewer queues. We deserve better facilities, better treatment, and care. We don’t deserve leaders who will violate their own rules, apologize for lack of better judgment only to impose heavy penalties on common people for violating the same rules they disobeyed. We are resilient but are we also fools? We shouldn’t just allow the government to take full advantage of our capacity to endure hardships and of our forgiving nature. We deserve a decent quarantine facility compared to where my sister was placed when she arrived in our hometown of Tubigon. They used a tarpaulin to provide division and a false sense of privacy. A place she needs to stay for 14 days while trying her best to be able to work and earn and pay taxes. We deserve to be treated as humans. I will just leave it at that.