Antiqueño medical practioners want next leaders to prioritize healthcare

Behind their colorful PPEs, Antiqueño medical frontliners endure the hours of layered protection, masks, and shields as they jab vaccines with optimism in controlling the COVID-19 virus. Photo courtesy of Rachelle Molina.

By Mariane Gabrielle C. Cagalawan

ANTIQUE – With the new set of leaders for the country, Antiqueño medical practitioners request for more healthcare-inclined plans and platforms after their first-hand experience in the Philippines’ COVID-19 management and response.

Struggles during the pandemic

COVID-19 is a novel virus, leaving medical frontliners unprepared in addressing the virus which claimed more than 60,000 lives so far, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The fatality includes doctors, nurses, and other medical frontliners who sacrificed their lives in the workplace while waiting for the vaccines.

In Antique, doctors were forced to shift their practice, where some utilized telemedicine, a mode of medical consultation using electronic communication. Those who lived in areas with slow internet connection had to see patients face-to-face but had to modify their clinics in strict observance of safety protocols.

Rachelle Molina, a pediatrician, said she was compelled to put up shields, buy expensive highly protective masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for her staff, and secure regular disinfection and proper ventilation.

“We never received any help from the local and national government. Maybe the public hospital did, but no help to private medical practitioners and frontliners. The vaccines are the only things we received from the government and nothing else,” Molina said.

Aside from added financial burden and more work, the pandemic also posed a threat to the personal well-being of the frontliners.

According to Marianne Malan, a dermatologist with comorbidity, she became anxious since she was always at risk of acquiring severe infection.

The apprehension created a gap between them and their families because of the fear of spreading the virus to their respective homes.

Doctors also felt disoriented with the COVID-19 response of the government.

“Local and national leaders were caught unaware by this pandemic. They were so unprepared. Most of the members of the IATF were military and politicians. They should have involved more doctors and other healthcare personnel,” said Pauline Estaris, an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Malan also observed the lack of concrete guidelines and protocols which lead to poor COVID-19 response and management.

Students taking medical courses were also tested by the pandemic, especially their motivation in pursuing their career.

Arabela Molina, a fourth-year medical technology student saw how mistreated, underpaid, and overworked the health workers were during the pandemic.

“This pandemic really exposed how neglected our health sector is compared to other sectors in society and it’s disheartening to know that I might experience the same thing if the system doesn’t change,” Molina said.

Fourth year nursing student Gian Paolo Estaris also had the same observation which made him question his career choice halfway through college life after seeing how the government treated medical workers.


The new set of national and local leaders pushed medical practitioners to voice out their sentiments, hoping that they will prioritize healthcare in the country.

“We hope the next leaders are morally upright, sincere in public service, and empathetic to the plight of the poor, the marginalized, and other sectors of society,” Dr. Molina said.

Dr. Molina emphasized that future leaders must focus on the pandemic and accessible healthcare apart from promoting renewable energy, environmental protection, improvement of educational system, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), taxes, and agriculture dealt with.

Antiqueño medical workers conveyed not only the things that matter to them as practitioners, but also the needs of their patients and people they encounter everyday – accessible healthcare, investment on research, and fair wages and work hours.

On the other hand, medical students presented the platforms they want to hear from the candidates.

“I hope the newly elected politicians will emphasize plans and projects that can uplift our health sector, protect IP, women, and human rights, uplift our education sector, treat the drug problem in the country as a health problem, favor the poor, and raise our economy,” Arabela said.


Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao, who will serve for another three years, emphasized that one of her thrusts is to upgrade various health facilities in Antique.

Last February, the Provincial Health Board discussed the establishment of the Special Health Fund in consonance with the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

The law stated that all health resources intended for health services to finance population-based and individual-based health services, health system operation costs, capital investments, and remuneration for additional health workers and incentives for all health workers shall be pooled to the special health fund.

Cadiao is optimistic that the execution of the act will equip different hospitals and empower medical professionals in the province.

On June 1, 2022, Antique Provincial Health Office (APHO) announced the province as “COVID-Free” after recording zero active case of the virus after two years.

Cadiao said the accomplishment was achieved through the efforts of medical frontliners in the province and cooperation of the people.

(Mariane Gabrielle C. Cagalawan is a third year Communication and Media Studies student under the Journalism cluster.  Her article is an output of her CMS 136 course (Specialized Reporting) under Dr. Zoilo Andrada Jr.)