COVID-19 patient in Davao treatment facility: help us heal, don’t treat us as prisoners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 May 2021) – A COVID-19 patient undergoing treatment in a temporary treatment and monitoring facility (TTMF) in Malagos is appealing to authorities to help them  heal and not treat them as prisoners by locking them up from the outside, in their container van rooms.

Lillian (real name withheld), an official of a national government agency,  told MindaNews that since May 24, on her third day of stay there, they had not been allowed to open their doors as these have been locked up from the outside.

COVID-19 facility in Malagos, Calinan, Davao City, made of container vans. Photo from the FB page of the City Government of Davao

The 62-year old Lillian was admitted in the facility late evening of May 21. She had her test morning of May 19 in a private laboratory, got the results in the evening, was contacted by the city’s COVID-center morning of May 20 but fetched by the ambulance more than 36 hours later, at around 10 p.m. on May 21.

“No briefing was done when I was admitted,” she told MindaNews by phone.

Lillian recalled that on her first full day on May 22, “I opened the door for around 45 minutes so I can breathe fresh air.  On the second day (May 23), “I opened the door again and did stretching exercises sa sunlight nga nagasulod sa room (as the sunlight streams into the room) when the door is opened.”

On the third day (May 24), “they ordered the locking of doors from the outside.”

“Actually the construction design of the facility is to lock the door from the outside. I argued that it’s not good and not safe locking in patients. No amount of arguing would move them. And I was told that ‘magreklamo lang ka hangtud sa imo gusto basta’  (just complain for as long as you want but) they will lock the door,” Lillian added.

She said what has been happening since May 24 is that their rooms are unlocked “pag magbigay ng food tapos lock uli, pag magkuha ng blood pressure, then lock uli” (when food is given to them then locked again, opened when they get their blood pressure then lock again).

“What was the explanation of the staff why they locked you up from outside?” MindaNews asked. “Simply lang ingon. Tungod kay positive ka, I lock up ka  (They simply said ‘because you’re positive, you’ll be locked up’).

She said she heard the staff threaten other patients that they would be transferred to another facility if they complain.

MindaNews checked with Dr. Ashley Lopez, acting City Health Officer on the complaints in the ConVan facility.  “I will verify,” he told MindaNews at 1:49 p.m. on Wednesday.

A minute later, he asked if the person who complained “might be exaggerating?”

“Para pong hotel ang ConVan, naka-aircon at may sariling CR. Sa lahat po kase ng isolation facilities, dapat kase sila naka-contain lang talaga sa loob. Inaabutan lang po sila ng pagkain at inumin. (The ConVan is like a hotel, it is airconditioned and has its own comfort room. In all isolation facilities, the patients should be contained. They are being served food and drinks).  Remember they are positive cases … but I will still verify,” he said.

Mayor Sara Duterte (in black shirt), graces the blessing of the temporary treatment and monitoring facility made of container vans, in Malagos, Calinan, Davao Cit on 17 April 2020. Photo courtesy the City Government of Davao

Told that the issue is not about the facility’s amenities but the treatment of patients as prisoners locked up from outside, Lopez replied:  “Okay I will address the concern.”

Lillian stressed “there is no problem as to the facility. The problem lies on how they are treating patients. Locking in like they are prisoners? Is that how a hotel is run? “

Lillian said she wants their ordeal known so that the matter can be addressed immediately.

“My heart’s desire is simply for them to treat human beings infected with COVID as persons ba and not add to the emotional trauma these patients are experiencing. Sakit sa dughan kung kapwa Pilipino nimo ang mag-treat sa imo harshly ba” (It is so painful that a fellow Filipino treats you harshly).

“I just pity the patients here. These patients are going through some emotional struggles, yet they are treated like prisoners, Gi-bartolina to put it bluntly,” she said.

Lillian described the TTMF as a huge facility. ”It’s a container van facility that they improvised. There is an aircon but the aircon will not hasten the recovery of the patient. It’s the sunlight that helps the patients and not locking them. I do understand we are not allowed to go out of the room but locking patients like he or she is a prisoner, di pud maayo oi (it’s not good),” she said.

She said she heard from one of the staff that a patient was asking for a broom to clean the room. “Then I heard, ‘bawal magsilhig sa room kay molupad ang virus.’ (sweeping the floor is not allowed because you will spread the virus.” So sa entire time nimo diri, walay limpiyo ug silhig ang room (So in your entire stay here, you can’t clean your room or sweep the floor?). She said she wanted to fight with the staff but  “mawala man ato pagka Kristohanon kung mangaway ta” (it is unChristian to do so).

Lillian said her case is “mild” and that she did not experience symptoms normally associated with the virus except for “simple sore throat and a mild cough.”

She said she “tried negotiating that I be allowed home quarantine since am okay but to no avail.”

She said she was not given any briefing when she was admitted at the facility, “except for one good soul na nurse who drops by to get my blood pressure.”

The ConVan facility was donated by the Jesus V. Del Rosario Inc. Foundation, and was  blessed and inaugurated on April 17, 2020. Photos posted by the city government on its Facebook page showed that Mayor Sara Duterte was at the inauguration while the foundation was represented by Danilo Talaban, President and Chief Operations Officer of EMCOR Inc. and Jorge Vicente del Rosario, Assistant to the Chair.

According to the post, the facility includes “six nurse stations, 48 isolation rooms with essentials and comfort room.”

Davao City is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. In one week, the total number of cases has increased by 800, from 15,456 on May 19 to 16,256 on May 26. Within the same period,  21 more deaths were recorded.

The number of active cases on May 19 was 715. By May 26,  the number of active cases reached 1,191; the number of recoveries from 14,021 on May 19 to 14,324 on May 26.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)