Take five: The COVID-19 challenges “are just too many to mention”

Pamela Grace P. Español-Solano is one of nine female doctors volunteering at a COVID-19 facility in southern Philippines.

What challenges are you facing with the outbreak of COVID-19?

We encountered and overcame a lot of challenges.

It was not very easy to ask the Government for an immediate lockdown since many things have to be considered, like the economy, food for the people, etcetera. But thanks to Gov Tamayo [Reynaldo S. Tamayo, Governor of South Cotabato province] for the immediate decision and for trusting the doctors.

Turning the SOCCSKSARGEN General Hospital into a COVID-19 facility had a lot of setbacks, such as Department of Health requirements to ensure the safety of the health-care workers who would be going on duty. Recruitment of doctors, nurses, other health-care workers has been a problem. Provision of personal protective equipment due to its scarcity, cost, shipment. Testing kits were not readily available. There are just too many to mention.

Presently, the major problem we are facing is the triaging and proper referral of possible COVID-19 patients to the facility because we do not want any non-COVID-19 patients to be admitted here.

You are on the front line. What does your day look like now?

I just started my duty at the COVID-19 facility this week. I am a bit anxious and scared, and at the same time proud of myself for volunteering. I am also confident because I have the best teammates. I have been praying that we won’t have any more possible COVID-19 patients.

What do you need the most now?

Testing kits and our own accredited laboratory to test for COVID-19 patients. Availability of testing kits depends on the Department of Health. The COVID-19 management team is doing everything to hasten the accreditation of the lab.

Dr. Pamela Grace P. Español-Solano gets help putting on protective equipment before she treats people in the hospital’s COVID-19 facility. Photo: UN Women/Louie Pacardo

Why do you think COVID-19 is impacting women differently?

Women are impacted differently because they are differently situated.

For those who have been full-time housewives, those who spend most of their time at home, there is not much to adjust to. But for working women like me, it’s a different story. Now working women have more time at home, which admittedly has beneficial, positive consequences, but also means a trade-off [from a] financial/economic standpoint.

And that is just one narrative. We can just imagine the women who are subject to domestic abuses now that the lockdown “enhanced community quarantine” is in effect.

And … factor in the psychological/emotional/mental effects this pandemic is [having on] women, the uncertainty and fear of what will eventually happen.

What’s your advice for decision makers?

At this time of the COVID pandemic, let us set aside politics, our selfishness, pride, envy, fear. Let us think not only of ourselves but also of our loved ones and the community.

Pamela Grace P. Español-Solano, 41, is an obstetrician-gynecologist with a private practice in Koronadal City, South Cotabato province of the Philippines. She left home, where she lives with her lawyer husband and 12th grade daughter, to volunteer and stay full-time at the SOCCSKSARGEN General Hospital COVID-19 facility in the province’s Surallah municipality, She and the other volunteer doctors are not allowed to return home until all the facility’s persons under investigation” — those who have COVID-19-liie symptoms but have not been tested – are cleared and discharged