Olongapo City – The two ailing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) now at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital in Manila did not undergo mandatory 21-day quarantine in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone, their place of origin.
Despite the government’s rigid protocol against Ebola, the two managed to evade the government’s radar, according to a source who requested anonymity.
They were in a group of seven OFWs who arrived from the West African nation. Unlike the two, however, the five other OFWs completed the government-mandated quarantine before coming home.
One of the five, in fact, had to be quarantined again early this month before being allowed to be reunited with his relatives in Cebu. The patient, a 62-year-old mining supervisor, was eventually cleared after spending over two weeks in an undisclosed government facility, according to Dr. Dino Caing, chief of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the Department of Health.
Little is known about the two OFWs who exhibited symptoms of the dreaded disease, except that both are male and hail from Castillejos, Zambales.
The James Gordon Memorial Hospital, the first facility they went to last Friday, refused to admit them.
Dr. Jewel Manuel, the hospital administrator, said they do not have the facilities to handle Ebola cases.
Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino justified his reason ordering the hospital not to admit the two OFWs.
“Olongapo City is like a home, you don’t let a sick person inside just to give him medicine while your kids are around. As a good neighbor, we pointed the two to the right establishment,” he said.
The OFWs went to San Marcelino, Zambales, before they were admitted at the Jose B. Lingad Hospital in San Fernando, Pampanga.
On Monday, they were taken to Jose Reyes Memorial, a tertiary-level hospital.
Except for two text messages Sunday, Health Secretary Janet Garin had not issued any statement on the condition of the two possible Ebola patients.
Text inquiries were left unanswered.
She had earlier denied the Ebola cases, although conceded that the two OFWs are under quarantine, for what reason, she did not say.
A doctor of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial confirmed there were several patients under quarantine, but referred all questions to a certain Dr. Fantoni who is the only authorized person to talk about Ebola in the region.
However, Fantoni’s mobile phone was off.
In Iloilo, Dr. Ludovico Jurao, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infection Diseases (PSMID), conceded that hospitals, especially non-government, are ill-prepared for Ebola.
“I would say 50 or 60 percent,” said Jurao in a phone interview.