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Fighting the unseen enemy named ‘coronavirus’

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By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios
Photos from Diwata de Castro-Paredes/USAID’s TB Platforms

In times of crisis, all hands on deck must be the principle of everyone who can be of help to abate the seeming uncontrollable situation. And this is the inspiring story of the USAID-trained Healthcare Workers.

Nash Diron, NTP Nurse Coordinator in Marawi City is one of the 600 community healthcare workers trained by USAID, through its TB Platforms Project on TB screening and community contact tracing. Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, TB responders like her have been actively supporting the City Health Office in ensuring there is continuous provision of TB services.

Unexpectedly, last May all of them have been called to support the Marawi City’s COVID-19 Centers. Together with her co-workers, they continue to monitor enlisted TB patients’ adherence to treatment since they are most prone to get infected by the coronavirus.

“I started working as a nurse for the City Health Office just August last year. I know from that time that I will be working for the tuberculosis program. But never in my dreams that thought I will be called to serve for pandemic response,” Diron narrated.

USAID Trained Nash Diron, NTP Nurse Coordinator in Marawi City with her  healthcare worker colleagues

“Since that time I joined the TB program, I have learned a lot from the training programs provided by the USAID. Along with my colleagues, we would attend 3-day workshops and live-in seminars on how we can help eradicate TB in the city. It was tasking but fulfilling for me since I can use my profession in helping our LGU find and treat TB patients,” she recalled.

Diron completed the recent webinars on infection prevention and control (IPC)  for TB and COVID-19 administered by USAID’s TB Platforms for community health care workers. She mentioned that when she learned about the webinar, she told her colleagues to attend as well.

”We have our own families. Like me, I have a son that I come home to every day. So it is better that I know how to protect myself and my family. I try to explain the IPC guidelines to our family members as well and beg that everyone should cooperate,” Diron shared.

A Medical Technologist in Marawi City COVID Center checking some specimen samples from the patients

The USAID’s TB Platforms provide technical assistance to the Department of Health’s National Tuberculosis Control Program in Marawi City, Regions 3, and 4-A, and the National Capital Region.

Since March 2020, the project led by its Chief of Party Dr. Marianne Calnan who has been collaborating with regional Center for Health development, local government units, and health facilities on infection prevention and control for both TB and COVID-19. Dr. Christian Villacorte, USAID’s TB Platforms PMDT/Patient-Centered Care Specialist, during the webinar series, explained how healthcare workers for TB and COVID-19 can protect themselves from the coronavirus. Apart from this, he highlighted how LGUs and hospitals can improve their administrative controls for infection prevention and control.

USAID’s TB Platforms also partnered with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) in sharing basic information about TB and COVID-19 and how public and private institutions are working together to promote public health education for both killer diseases. The project’s Social and Behavior Change Communications Specialist Diwata de Castro-Paredes continues to work with regional PIA offices in media outreach.

There are also regional radio and TV stations that have been providing free airtime and publication of news and inspiring stories about healthcare workers serving for TB and COVID-19 response.

USAID’s TB Platforms Field and Operations Manager Dr. Zhamir Umag works with Marawi City Health Office, Amai Pakpak Medical Center, Department of Interior and Local Government and BARMM Ministry of Health in line with strengthening TB response amid COVID-19. USAID’s TB Platforms is working on the launch of TB Contact Center in Marawi City and other demonstration sites as part of its support to help TB patients and their families address concerns on TB services and treatment, especially during the community quarantine.

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