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NCMH infections up, anxiety rises

Aldrin Cardona

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The death of a psychiatric patient due to COVID-19 has sparked louder calls by the medical workers in the frontlines for the management of the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) to implement a skeleton workforce.

This would be in line with the Memorandum Order issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on 17 March, calling for a “skeletal workforce” in the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard, health and emergency frontline services, border control and other frontline services.

A source from the NCMH claimed the management has refused to implement a skeleton workforce arrangement despite the recent spike in the number of COVID-19 patients in the Mandaluyong hospital.

She said elder NCMH employees and the administrative staff should be placed in a “work from home” arrangement.

The COVID-19 patient died at 5 p.m. on Monday, bringing down to five the number of new coronavirus-positive patients in the psychiatric ward.

But another source disclosed that from eight NCMH staff found positive of COVID-19, the number has risen to 11, stoking further fears of contamination of more NCMH staff who are working without proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nurses, health workers infected

Those found positive were nurses, nursing attendants and administrative staff.

The mental health facility employs 2,000 people, 134 of whom are considered as PUI (persons under investigation) for showing COVID-19 symptoms.

There are 3,500 patients currently admitted in at the 4,200-bed hospital.

One source claimed four of the hospital’s eight pavilions have been locked down, but another source maintained that only one pavilion was ordered closed.

The dead COVID-19 patient came from Pavilion 28 before he was transferred to Pavilion & — or the Infirmary — where he perished.

Isolated in a tent

Another employee who tested positive for COVID-19 remains in a tent as he could not be accommodated in a ward for fear of infecting the other non-COVID-19 patients.

He has been there since Monday as some NCMH employees claimed no contingency plan is being cascaded by the management.

The patient is waiting for the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unite from the City of Mandaluyong in hopes that he will be brought to the Mandaluyong Medical Center before he could get transferred to a COVID-19 hospital determined by the DoH.

Latest DoH count claims 2,084 COVID-19 positive patients, with 699 more with pending test results.

There are 968 PUI and 6, 321 PUM (persons under monitoring) or those suspected to be COVID-19 carriers or infected but are not showing symptoms.

Forty-nine patients have recovered, while 88 died.

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