Fear and resolve at Philippine maternity hospital amid pandemic

MANILA (Reuters) - As the Philippines grapples with rising coronavirus infections, new mothers and medical staff at one of the world’s busiest maternity hospitals face heightened anxiety during the pandemic.

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In the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila overcrowding has been a problem for years, with new mothers often having to share beds due to high admissions.

At present, the hospital is caring for 589 patients, 181 more than its 408-bed capacity, with an average of 50 deliveries a day.

“I’m scared that I will contract the virus here. I’m also scared for my baby, especially since her immune system is still weak,” said Szarina Pusiquit, 21, who gave birth a few days ago.

Since the outbreak started, around 120 health workers at the hospital have been infected with the coronavirus, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Diana Cajipe, a obstetrician-gynaecologist who has spent 13 years at the hospital, says a big concern is the possibility that patients did not disclose symptoms of the coronavirus because of the fear of not being admitted.

“I think that poses a great risk not only to us healthcare workers but to other patients as well,” said Cajipe.

The Philippines has recorded 279,526 coronavirus infections, the highest number in Southeast Asia with most cases being recorded in Manila, while 4,830 people have died.

Despite the pressures, Cajipe said health workers in the hospital were coping.

“I’m just glad I’m working with people in this institution who are resilient enough to stay by me during this pandemic,” she said. “Exhaustion and fear have to be put aside, because our patients need us.”

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Mike Collett-White