Protection is the Priority: Keeping Filipino Healthcare Workers Safe amid the Pandemic



Healthcare workers (HCWs) have been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since the start. According to the Department of Health, over 9,000 Filipino HCWs have tested positive for COVID-19 at the time this article was written. Though most have successfully recovered, this statistic highlights the need to actively invest in protecting frontliners from the risk of infection.

With this goal in mind, ASSIST is collaborating with international healthcare nonprofit Project HOPE, in the project Saving the Lives of Healthcare Workers in the Philippines. The project will deliver much needed supplies and skills training to HCWs as they continue to fight the clear dangers of the ongoing pandemic.

Under this project, regional and provincial hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots will receive personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. The first batch of PPEs has already been distributed with the help of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines. ASSIST and Project HOPE are working to procure additional PPEs for more beneficiaries in the coming months.

HCWs also have the chance to participate in COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) training to augment their ongoing efforts to safely screen and treat patients. Partner organizations and technical consultants are assisting in localizing modules for different specializations. Additionally, Filipino medical experts like Dr. Elmer Soriano of CIVIKA Asian Development Academy have been tapped to lead the training sessions, which will be facilitated online.

“I would like to thank ASSIST and Project HOPE for their collaboration in this program to help provide solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines,” said Dr. Lester Suntay of the World Surgical Foundation Philippines, one of the local project partners. “We are happy to provide our service to help in IPC in operating rooms, hospitals, and communities across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.”

Originally developed by Brown University, the IPC training covers critical areas of COVID-19 prevention, triage, and treatment, including diagnosis & management and risk communication. Qualified HCWs have been invited to become certified Master Trainers and pass on the knowledge to their peers and colleagues in their immediate community.

To round out the project, targeted hospitals and health facilities will be receiving technical assistance for improved IPC management through identification of gaps and needs and implementing improved controls, practices, and protocols.

Over 15 partnerships with hospital associations, medical societies, local government units have been established for Saving the Lives of Healthcare Workers in the Philippines. ASSIST has also expanded the project’s IPC training by connecting with medical education institutions in a bid to prepare the next generation of HCWs.

“All of our partners are very eager to help roll out this relevant project. This pandemic has affected everyone and it is only with everyone’s support that it can get resolved,” said Francis Macatulad, Director for Strategy and Project Management. “To heal as one, we have to work as one.”