Fear on front lines as hospital staff face threats in Philippines
MANILA: Janitor Ritchie Estabillo was on his way to work when he was confronted by five men who poured bleach over his face, one of a growing number of hospital workers suffering abuse in the Philippines amid panic over coronavirus infections.
His employer said Mr Estabillo had been checked over and was unharmed, but called the attackers "vile individuals" who could have cost him his sight.
"Our (member of staff) is a breadwinner, as many of our front-liners are, who in the present pandemonium choose to bravely continue their duties," the St Louis Hospital in the province of Sultan Kudarat said of Friday's incident.
"They remain unfazed by the discrimination that healthcare workers now face."
The Philippines' Health Ministry yesterday reported seven new coronavirus deaths and 128 more infections.
Total deaths have risen to 78 and infections to 1,546.
Mr Estabillo's experience is not unique.
That same night, a nurse in Cebu City had chlorine thrown at him, according to his superior, who said the nurse was unharmed.
"We are not the enemies here," said the doctor, who asked not to be identified because she was not authorised to speak to media.
"We are facing the threat every day in the hospital."
Such stigma is something the Philippines could do without. Hospitals are already struggling with a shortage of protective gear, manpower and testing capacity, adding to uncertainty about the extent of the virus spread.
Evictions are also taking place in the Philippines.
The department of health on Sunday said physical assault, harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated, with some medical workers being fined at checkpoints for breaching lockdown laws, or being refused transport and laundry services. - REUTERS