Thank you, frontliners!

Let’s not lose our humanity in the process. These frontliners walked with grit and determination in their young years to achieve their dreams. The nation is indebted to all frontliners. We shall overcome.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on March 24, 2020.

”Never was so much owed by so many to so few.” And as a doctor has asked me, I am obliged to write this column as our collective thank you to those who valiantly face the enemy and the clock to stave death at our door. To doctors, nurses, residents, technicians, operators of devices, aides, janitors, supply officers and so many unsung ones, we are indebted to you.

Never were they trained for a pandemic. Unlike soldiers trained to fight wars and hold peace, medical personnel are trained to cure, remedy a health issue and move on to the next patient.

Over the weekend, we heard of the first three doctors who offered their time, gift of medicine and their very lives for the patients battling with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19): Dr. Israel Bactol (cardiology fellow-in-training, Philippine Heart Center), Dr. Rose Pulido (medical oncologist, San Juan de Dios Hospital) and Dr. Greg Macasaet (anesthesiologist, Manila Doctors Hospital). Please remember them in your prayers, including their families.

Medical personnel and soldiers know what it is to be in the trenches and plod on. We have heard the stories of nurses and laboratory technicians and others walking for hours, even during curfew hours, just to reach their stations. Some are not eating on time, even sleeping with their scrubs on, all the while disheartened because they see their colleagues being infected. These are stories of humanity and what service and duty are.

These times call for courage and the bravest of hearts. So, when they plead for help, let us all do our share. A high school batchmate asked for medical masks for her hospital and we assisted even while we were quarterbacking things via online platforms. Another calls for masks and personal protective equipment, and so we gave what are now known as YormeShields for their use. We just have to move as a community and take care of each other.

The irony of the times is such that we need to work together, although maintain physical distance, and yet when you see the frontliners, they just do it. When the national government then designated certain hospitals as for Covid-19 cases only, we know the worst is yet to come.

Our repeated call is to ensure that the supplies are all at the ground level nationwide and that testing laboratories are designated in every region, province or city. We cannot be doing a “needle in a haystack” operation. We need reliable and timely data so decision makers can make informed choices. We need to do better in fighting this enemy.

When supplies are not provided, especially for the Covid-19-only hospitals, our frontliners have no protection. We would then have a situation in which frontliners are tired, some consumed by the enormity of the situation, others infected or some dead. We will then have to push those second-in-line, then the third, until we are down to medical students to confront the enemy.

Private hospitals are already overwhelmed. They are appealing for government help. When brought to their extreme capacities, government hospitals will have to bear the brunt. Are they capacitated? These are extraordinary times, and extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions. Our only hope is that the national government would get its act together and start marshaling the resources to protect the frontliners. Not tomorrow or upon the grant of emergency powers, but today. We cannot solve a crisis by doing another crisis and creating false hopes that the emergency powers will be the cure. No, it won’t. It’s getting things rolled out and implemented that will get us back as a nation.

Let’s not lose our humanity in the process. These frontliners walked with grit and determination in their young years to achieve their dreams — to be a doctor, nurse medical technologist, etc. Most are breadwinners. Today, their families are holding on to grief knowing their husband, sister, father or mother stood up for us. The small people in that medical chain never got themselves tested ahead of everyone. They faced and continue to face the enemy with nothing but a big heart and love for service to the nameless Filipinos who need attention. The heroes are in our midst. They fall for us to rise.

The nation is indebted to all frontliners. We shall overcome.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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