Indispensable to New York City hospitals, health care workers from the Philippines died in shocking s last spring. Will things be different this winter?
Belinda Ellis, an emergency room nurse in Queens. By Luca Powell. She had worked in hospitals in the Philippines, where she was born and got her degree. She was a nurse in Saudi Arabia and then at a military hospital on the border of Iraq when Saddam Hussein came into power.
Nor could she have foreseen the immense toll the coronavirus would take on her Filipino colleagues.
As devastating as Covid was in those early months, a of studies now reveal just how hard the virus hit Filipino health care workers. Of all the nurses who died from the virus nationwide, one study foundclose to a third of them were Filipino.
According to an analysis by ProPublicain the New York City area alone, at least 30 Filipino health care workers had died from the virus by June. Many of them fell sick, including Erwin Lambrento, a tenacious night shift nurse from the outskirts of Manila who died of the virus in early May. Pictures of him still hang throughout Elmhurst Hospital Center, where Ms. Ellis works. That figure, which was pulled from public obituaries, is around a third of the total registered nurses who have died nationwide, though Filipinos make up only 4 percent of those nurses overall.
Cortez fears that the true toll is worse.
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Now another wave of the virus has arrived. The infection rate in New York City has risen in recent weeks, and hospitalizations are at alarming levels; more than New Yorkers have died of Covid since the beginning of And many Filipino nurses fear their hospitals could again be crushed under caselo that recall the harrowing months of March and April.
Filipino nurses have a long history of working in New York City hospitals, dating at least to the immigration reforms in the s, which broadened the of foreign workers who could apply for a United States visa. In the Philippines, nursing schools have taught an American curriculum since as early asgranting degrees to English-speaking nurses who could slot easily into American hospitals.
They quickly became invaluable in the s as a solution to staffing shortages exacerbated by the AIDS epidemic. It was in that Ms. Ellis was recruited by Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where she was quickly deployed to the bedsides of patients with H. San Francisco and New York were especially welcoming to migrant nurses, according to Leo-Felix Jurado, a professor of nursing at William Paterson University in New Jersey who wrote his dissertation on the importation of Filipino nurses into American hospitals.
He recalls that visiting the employment fairs held in Manila hotels felt like an afternoon of barhopping. Recruiters jostled to make hires, sweetening work visas to the United States with ing bonuses and promises of free housing, Mr. Jurado said. These neighborhoods were slammed last year by the pandemic.
In June, a community group painted a mural in Woodside to fallen Filipino workers. It honors Rustico Pasig, who was infected while working at a nursing home in Rego Park and died at the age of And it honors Romeo Agtarap, a former nurse coordinator at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital who left retirement to care for patients with Covid Agtarap, who was 63, arrived in New York City in At work, he was known for a deft ability to place an IV and for his easygoing nature, which earned him many friends throughout decades in the profession.
It also earned him his first date with Joy Constantino, a cardiac nurse who arrived from the Philippines inwhen he let slip to friends that he was interested in her.
The two were married in InMr. Agtarap stepped down from his managerial role to work part time, intending to soon retire completely. The two were hospitalized with the virus in early April, but only Ms. Agtarap responded to treatment.
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In the spring, many Filipino nurses went weeks without sleeping at home, said Laarni Florencio, a board member of the Philippine Nurses Association of New York. Florencio said.
That emotional toll for health care providers is tough. Ellis, whose first posting as a travel nurse took her to a military hospital on the border of the Kurdistan region in Many say their hospitals are better prepared this time: They know how and when to use ventilators, for example, and Ms. Ellis pointed out that Elmhurst now sits on vastly replenished stocks of protective masks and gowns.
‘it’s starting again’: why filipino nurses dread the second wave
In addition, health care workers have priority in receiving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which have been shown to be highly effective. In the meantime, nurses in several hospitals here have warned about a lack of protective gearand hospitals throughout the city are reviving some of the coronavirus units that became a necessity in the spring.
Over the holidays, Ms. Delta Variant Map. Supported by. Updated Aug. Ellis just received her second shot on Tuesday. Ellis said.