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

Pamela Grace P. Español-Solano, 41, is an obstetrician-gynecologist with a private practice in South Cotabato province of the Philippines. She left home, where she lives with her husband and 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-like symptoms but have not been tested – are cleared and discharged.

Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Dr. Pamela Grace P. Español-Solano peeks through the plastic makeshift safety entrance that leads to the hospital’s “red zone”, where seven people with COVID-19-like symptoms are being treated. Photo: UN Women/Louie Pacardo

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. 

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.

Read the full interview on UN Women's regional website for Asia and the Pacific