I’m pretty sure we’re all tired of those confusing presscons from the government about the enhanced community quarantine. But though we’re now used to hearing the words lockdown, quarantine and frontliners, some of us still don’t seem to know who falls under the latter.
A problematic mindset
As I was scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across a photo of a text conversation about how a certain medical technologist inquired about face masks. They were greeted with a rude reply of how the masks were only for frontliners.
To add to that, the second photo in the post contained negative comments about how med techs aren’t frontliners since they’re cooped up in their labs all day and don’t get exposed to the virus.
I find this infuriating, partly because I have friends who are studying to be medical technologists. But I’m aware that not everyone knows what they do, so I’ve interviewed a medical technologist who works in one of the hospitals in Parañaque to know more about the occupation. He prefers to be anonymous so let’s just call him Rico.
What they do
According to Rico, medical technologists are usually tasked to gather bodily samples through different methods, from blood extraction to oral swabbing. They test these samples for anomalies to let doctors know what goes on in a person’s body. He even said, “Without us, doctors cannot properly diagnose and safely give treatments.”
Their role in addressing this pandemic
Tests run on PUIs (regardless of whether or not they contracted the virus) are usually administered and handled by medical technologists. Rico also shared how there’s also a small percentage of them that are trained to operate the machines used for these tests.
And while their exposure to these patients and the virus is only limited, they are still at a great risk. It might be a one-time thing, but imagine the number of PUIs they have to test, including those working in the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. Aside from that, medical technologists also need to perform more tests on patients who tested positive to track their [the patients’] progress.
Why we should care
Just like the rest of us, these medical technologists fear for their health. Rico says that aside from fearing for himself, his thoughts go out to his family who are also in danger of contracting the virus every time he gets home from the hospital. “We also have the capacity to accidentally spread it to other patients as we routinely extract blood from them and are in direct contact [with them],” he shared.
Aside from face masks, they seem to lack reagents for their machines, other protective equipment and disinfectant chemicals—which only puts them at greater risk.
And as much as Rico believes that frontliners such as doctors and nurses are at great risk since they are exposed to the virus for longer periods of time, he still believes that medical technologists are frontliners too. He’s right. We wouldn’t be able to determine who has contracted the disease, since the virus is invisible; we can’t simply rely on self-diagnosis.
Other medical technologists, like one I was able to talk to briefly, believe that they don’t need to be recognized since they’re just doing what they’re expected to. There are also some that feel rewarded just by the fact that they’re helping address the pandemic. However, I believe that we should give them a little more credit instead of fussing over who should be considered. At the end of the day, we all just want everyone suffering from this virus to recover and for the number of positive cases to stop growing.