Dr. Jill P. Buensuceso is in constant fear of being infected, ever since new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients started coming to the hospital where she works. Any patient is a potential infectious case, even when the patient sees her for another matter. This has been the biggest change in her life.
“There is a real fear of dying because you might get infected by someone who doesn’t even realize he or she is a carrier of the virus,” she said. “But there is also this feeling that I have to continue working. That I need to look after the patients, no matter what. I told myself that this is probably what our soldiers feel all the time.”
Her hospital is one of the main referral hospitals for PUM/PUI and COVID-19 positive cases. She suspended her regular clinic hours at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Manila, but goes to the hospital every day to check on her inpatients. She does not go on duty in the COVID-19 ward. Only the infectious diseases specialists and residents are allowed inside the ward.
However, she eases the burden of the hospital’s front line by volunteering to take care of the patients of the doctors in the COVID-19 ward. It’s a temporary measure set up by the hospital to lessen the exposure of the patients who don’t have COVID-19 but still need looking after.
“There is an intensified camaraderie among my colleagues and residents. We’re all in this together,” she said. “Every patient we send home recovered or improved is a big emotional reward.”
Vigilance is also something she constantly practices nowadays. Any patient who exhibits one of the symptoms will be sent directly to the COVID ward for safety. She has attended to patients who come and see her thinking they are sick with something else, only to test positive for the coronavirus. She manages their other illnesses, like heart disease or diabetes, remotely.
“The patients are scared. I’m scared. Attending to them means I’ve been exposed, but I try hard to explain the situation in a reassuring way. I don’t make promises, especially since COVID-19 can be unpredictable,” she said.
She said that other diseases still exist, even when the world stops for COVID-19. They are priority cases, too, like stroke and heart failure, so she needs to keep working. This is why it frustrates her when she sees politicians who put their self-interests first.
She said that prayers and her faith gives her the strength to continue. She trusts that God will continue to take care of her.
Dr. Buensuceso urges individuals who can donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals to continue doing so. The COVID-19 ward goes through plenty of PPE and masks every day.