Do health workers undergo COVID-19 test every two weeks? Medical frontliners deny Duque’s claim

April 13, 2021 - 4:47 PM
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Health workers wait for the vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to begin, at the Marikina Sports Center, in Marikina City, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 2, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David)

Some medical frontliners are not agreeing with Health Secretary Francisco Duque‘s claim that health workers are getting tested for COVID-19 every two weeks.

Duque made this claim during the regular Cabinet meeting on Monday after President Rodrigo Duterte asked him about measures that protect health workers.

During the meeting, Duterte shared that family members of frontliners fear contracting the coronavirus disease due to the latter’s COVID-19 exposure and contacts.

“Kasi ‘yong ibang mga pamilya na frontliners, sila mismo daw, well of course totoo, na if they go home to their families, itong mga trabahante na ito, whether it be the husband, the wife, or a daughter or a son, nurse, doctor or what, when they go home, they go home to the house where nakatira ‘yong mga taong iba na and invariably they are saying that they are afraid that eventually the COVID will catch up with them,” he said.

In response to this concern, Duque claimed that healthcare workers are regularly being monitored.

“Tama po kayo, Mr. President, iyong atin pong mga healthcare workers ay binabantayan po natin sila at ang mga ospital ay every two weeks ay tinetest po sila para nang sa ganoon ay malaman kung sila po ba ay positive,” he said.

“At kung may sintomas din sila ay kaagaran naman pong sila ay ina-isolate or kung positive sila at mayroon pong exposure pero walang symptoms, kina-quarantine po sila,” he added.

The health secretary furthered that the health department instructed hospitals to reserve hotel rooms and spaces for doctors, nurses and other health workers should they contract COVID-19 or experience symptoms of it.

“Kaya ngayon po ay inatasan po natin ang mga ospital natin namagreserba ng mga hotel rooms, magreserba po ng mga lugar na doon po ang paglalagyan ng atin pong mga doktor or mga nurses na sila po ay nagkaroon ng sintomas at nagkaroon po ng kumpirmasyon na positive for COVID-19,” Duque said.

“So ito po naman pong mga ginagawa na ito noong nakaraang taon pa ho naging policy na po natin ito sa mga ospital,” he added.

What health workers said

A doctor who disagrees with Duque’s statement claimed that she only underwent COVID-19 test twice in a year and not every two weeks.

“Calling out this blatant lie now: no, this is not true. Since last year, I was only ever tested twice. Twice in an entire year. Colleagues in other hospitals have pretty much the same experience,” the doctor wrote.

Some users echoed this view on Twitter. They shared that doctors and nurses only undergo swab testing if they exhibit symptoms or their colleague does.

“This is definitely a lie. We only get tested when we have symptoms or our colleagues have symptoms. Scheduling for RT-PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) is also a hassle. Kudos to our chief resident for doing his best to have us swabbed,” a physician said.

“My cousin who is a nurse was only tested when she was tagged as close contact,” another said.

One doctor named Leonard Pascual dared Duque to show proofs of his claim.

“Sige nga show us the evidence,” he said.

Some Filipinos, meanwhile, compared the situation among health workers with that of government employees.

“Yung ibang government employees under different departments, tested every two weeks kahit walang symptoms. Pero yung mismong healthcare workers natin tested only when they have symptoms, not every 2 weeks!” one user wrote.

Last March, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque admitted it has been a routine for him to undergo RT-PCR tests every Sunday as part of his preparations before the regular Monday Cabinet meeting.

Roque noted he had no less than 35 swab tests since being appointed as a spokesperson in April 2020.

Duque likewise made the same admission in a briefing in the same month, citing he had already undergone 56 swab tests.