By Dr. Maymona Choudry
When the first case of COVID-19 broke out in the Philippines, in an attempt to limit the spread of the infection, “Community Quarantine” by the government, with varying levels of strictness were imposed throughout the country. In March 2020, the government of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte imposed an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, which placed restrictions on the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances. For me, it felt somewhat surreal. I thought to myself that the infection would not reach our region in Visayas. However, when we had our first case in Cebu province, we started to receive directives from our Department Chair to change our schedules, and go on skeletal duty.
In Visayas, as cases of COVID-19 infection were on the rise, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center was designated as the dedicated COVID-19 hospital in the region. In preparation for this, the Infection Control Committee (ICC) of the hospital was able to come up with a screening protocol and classification system of patients suspected to have COVID-19 infection. Healthcare workers became the front-liners in this pandemic. During the first few weeks, we would receive a lot of relief goods from different organizations and companies, delivering us meals and goods such as surgical masks, N95, and other personal protective equipment.
In the Department of General Surgery, when we first had an encounter in the Surgical ICU with a critical case of COVID-19 positive patient in a previously negative patient, that was the moment that everything changed. This was the time that I felt the virus was as close to me as the air I breathe. Knowing the imperfections of the triage and the screening processes, I felt that wearing an N95 mask was not enough. The department started taking drastic measures to ensure the safety of the residents, and our schedule was changed, wherein we would stay at the hospital for duty for 7 straight days, then go on home isolation for 14 days of quarantine. Aside from this, the hospital required us to attend training sessions on the basics of what we needed to equip ourselves with if we ever encountered a suspected COVID-19patient. In the Operating Room (OR) and Emergency Room (ER), we were directed to wear level IV PPE during our encounters with suspected patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on each and every person, especially the front-line health-care workers. It is much more difficult than it looks, especially when we were not even sure of what we were up against. The sense of duty and responsibility that each one of us has to carry is one of the most admirable characteristics that I see in my colleagues every day. The risks and adversities that each of us shoulder every day for the sake of our patients, our families, and our country is the most valuable asset that each person has contributed in our fight against the virus. Due to this pandemic, a “new normal” has emerged in healthcare practices that demonstrates how flexible and adaptable medicine is to changes and trends in the environment.
Maymona Choudry, MD, MPH, was born in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She completed her undergraduate studies in Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Ateneo de Zamboanga University. At the age of 18, she proceeded to complete her graduate studies with a dual degree in Doctor of Medicine and Masters in Public Health from the same institution. She is a General Surgery resident at Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu City. Her interests include Thoraco-Cardiovascular Surgery, Global Surgery, Surgical Critical Care and Public Health. She is a member of Association of Women Surgeons, American College of Surgeons, Philippine College of Surgeons, and many more. Her hobbies include writing articles, reading journals, and participating in various medical and surgical webinars.
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