Asilo de Molo faces crisis as it safeguards the most vulnerable

Asilo de Molo is braving the coronavirus disease 2019 to protect the elderly who are vulnerable to the infection. (Photos by Rex Aguado and DG file)

By Rex Legayada Aguado


Asilo de Molo, Panay Island’s only shelter and care institution for the elderly, has gone into total lockdown amid the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (CoViD19) outbreak but is facing serious shortages of resources.

With the elderly emerging as the most vulnerable to CoViD19, Asilo de Molo has banned families and non-essential volunteers from visiting the center and mingling with its residents in an effort to block the entry of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2), the culprit behind CoViD19.

“We have instituted a total lockdown here. Visitors are only allowed up to the gate and no volunteers for now,” said Sister Nieva Manzano, administrator of Asilo de Molo, which is under the wings of the Daughters of Charity order.

According to Sister Manzano, Asilo currently houses 37 elderly residents and 21 nuns, mostly also elderly. “Medyo hirap na hirap kami,” she said, adding they were running on a skeletal workforce but still have to pay everybody’s salaries. “We’ve just paid all of them for March. Grabe na deficit namin.”

Of Asilo’s 16 caregivers, only 11 have been allowed to stay-in to care for the residents, backed by two others and a volunteer to tend to the elderly nuns.

“We don’t even have our laundry team as they live out of town, so all the nuns are lending a hand to do the laundry. Three of our administrative staff are allowed to go home as they live nearby and they have their own rides, but they are required to change their clothes when they enter and they have to wear masks all the time,” Sister Manzano added.

The center’s security force has been cut from three to one guard, who is given board and lodging. One maintenance employee is also staying in to ensure good hygiene and cleanliness, according to Sister Manzano.

Asilo de Molo had to take extra precautions to safeguard its residents amid findings that the elderly are the most vulnerable to CoViD19.

The BBC reported on March 31, 2020 that more than a third of elderly care homes in the Paris region were suspected to have been affected by CoViD19, with some centers reporting double-digit death tolls.

Aside from mass infection and fatalities, care homes in Europe have been hit hard by staffing shortages, as caretakers themselves died, were infected or had to go into quarantine. As a result, in some European countries, the military had to be called in to give the elderly emergency assistance and disinfect the centers.

The BBC also reported that, in Madrid, 23 people were found dead in a home for the elderly, including two of the nuns who provided care. Across Spain, about 1,600 residents of care homes died in the first four weeks of March, with more than half believed to have fallen victim to CoViD19, the BBC added.

Asilo de Molo has no in-house doctor, but two physicians from the private Healthlink medical organization used to take turns checking on the residents once a week.

However, Sister Manzano said they had to cancel regular medical visits at Asilo since the CoViD19 breakout. “We will only call on the doctors when needed. We have two active nurses here, so the elderly are well-monitored and we have enough maintenance medicines for them,” she said.

Mercury Drug has assigned a personnel to get the list of needed medicines and deliver them at Asilo. “We are okay for now as we buy a month’s supply of medicines,” Sister Manzano said. “Our chicken, bread and vegetable supplies are also delivered, and we have enough rice for now.”

To supplement its resources, Asilo employs two crafts-women to make handmade embroidered materials for sale. It also runs a fee-paying informal school. “But because of the CoViD19 outbreak, all our bookings were canceled, and our alternative school is closed. But we still have to pay our staff salaries. That’s our worry now – how to pay all the staff,” Sister Manzano said.

She said they were unsure if they could tap into the government’s amelioration program to help pay their staff. Under the Department of Labor and Employment guidelines, only businesses that have closed can qualify for the subsidy. “But we can’t do that here as we have to continue looking after our residents,” she said.

Sister Manzano said they have six “paying boarders” at Asilo but the families of only four such residents have sent money for the month of March. “We also understand this as they may be having difficulty sending money, given the situation outside.”

Sister Manzano confirmed two of their residents died recently, but she clarified the cases had nothing to do with CoVid19. “We kinda foresaw this as they had been in and out of the hospital. Doctors assured us these were not CoViD19 cases,” she said.

“In any case, we would like to appeal to the community to stay home if possible and to cooperate with authorities to prevent the spread of the CoViD virus,” Sister Manzano added. “We would also appeal to the public to help support the Asilo – whatever they can give, whether in cash or kind.”

(For donations, you can visit Asilo de Molo at Avancena Street, Iloilo City, or contact +63 33 338-0252 or for more information)