‘COVID-19 IS THE ENEMY’: Hospital workers decry discrimination

Workers of The Medical City in Iloilo City feel discriminated after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Iloilo province was admitted to their care.

By Jennifer Rendon and Emme Rose Santiagudo

Around the world, they were regarded as modern-day heroes – brave, steadfast, selfless.

But health care workers and staffers of a hospital in Iloilo City feel otherwise.

On Sunday, social media was abuzz with reports that employees of The Medical City in Molo, Iloilo City are being discriminated hours after the Department of Health –  Center for Health Development 6 (DOH-CHD6) confirmed that Iloilo has its first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive case.

TMC-Iloilo City management later released an official statement confirming that the 65-year old male patient from Guimbal, Iloilo is in its care.

The report apparently caused individuals living near the hospital to fret.

In her Facebook post, Janissa Tterre posted the photo of a handwritten announcement in a sari-sari store located at the back of the hospital.

The note was addressed to “All Medical Personnel of Medical City.”

It reads, “Pasensya lang kamu anay di pwede magbakal sa tyangge kag wala transactions.” (Apologies but (you) can’t buy at the store and no transactions.) It was signed by a certain “Kagawad Totong Belleza.”

On his Facebook account, TMC marketing staffer Raymart Escopel appealed to the public to avoid discrimination.

“We don’t need that. What we need right now is cooperation and most of all, sympathy,” Escopel said.

Escopel said that health care heroes risk their lives to take care of the sick.

“Can we protect them back by avoiding hasty generalizations and false judgments?” he added.

Escopel said he knows that the people are all concerned about their health and safety.

“Even us, too! But please, don’t overreact because it will just make the situation worse,” he said as he appealed for people to open their minds.

TMC marketing head Prince Juliene Hermaine Celo said it was very unfortunate that some of their employees were discriminated just because they are working in the hospital.

“I hope people could understand that without them, who would take care of the sick,” Celo said.

Celo said he received reports of some employees that were not allowed to enter their barangay. Worse, some were barred into their own boarding houses or apartments.

But he assured that the hospital management is in close coordination with Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.

The Iloilo City government has provided them with options on how to deal with such discriminatory acts. He assured, though, that protocols are followed.

It was gathered that all persons under investigation (PUIs) under the TMC’s care are placed in the same floor. Nurses and doctors who deal with the COVID-19 positive patient were already placed in quarantine.

Several health professionals in Iloilo City condemned the incident.

In another Facebook post, Treñas confirmed that he has been receiving messages that Ilonggo medical workers are discriminated.

“Buses reject them, karinderyas won’t sell to them, their landlords evicted them. We should not allow this to happen,” he said.

The mayor added, “please keep in mind if they cannot eat or sleep well, they cannot go to work. Who will take care of you if you will be infected? Would you also want them to treat you the same?”

Treñas subsequently offered medical workers the Iloilo City Community College in Molo district for their temporary accommodations. They just have to bring beddings and food in the meantime.

“To everyone reading this, let us help each other and be heroes in our own little ways. Let us make our fathers and forefathers proud,” he said, as he asked for any sponsorship for the medical staff’s food and lodging.

Meanwhile, Dr. Felix Ray Villa, TMC-Iloilo City chief executives officer (CEO), said “it is very disheartening to know that the very people who have sworn to take care of us are now being discriminated against.”

“These people are risking their own lives so the rest of us may live. Please take note that our biggest enemy is COVID-19 and should not be ignorance. Let us educate ourselves properly so we may understand why they do what they do. After them, we have no one,” Villa said.



Following the reported discriminatory acts, TMC has issued a statement asking for the public’s support and understanding in these challenging times.

“The Medical City Iloilo healthcare workers and frontliners have been doing their duties to take care of the sick and protect the community against COVID-19,” the statement said.

“While we are doing this for everyone, can we ask a little favor? Please include us in your prayers, broaden your understanding and avoid any kind of discrimination. We need it now more than ever.”

It added that they understand the public’s sentiments of being safe and healthy.

“And we’re thinking the same. That is why we are ensuring the safety of every patient we take care of, their families, our colleagues and even our own families and acquaintances,” it said, as it stressed that they are allies in the battle against COVID-19.

On Saturday evening, immediately after the confirmation that one of patients tested positive for COVID-19, TMC-Iloilo City assured the public that they have followed protocols.

“In light of the recent advisory regarding the confirmed COVID-19 positive patient, the management had already identified and quarantined healthcare workers who have come in contact with the said patient. Thus, these healthcare workers and frontliners no longer pose any danger to those who are coming in at TMC Iloilo and the general public as a whole.”

Further, “only those healthcare workers who did not have direct contact with the patient have been allowed to report on duty.”