Covid-19 trims down work of professionals and businesses

April 15, 2020 | By: Arch. Benjamin K. Panganiban, Jr., (as first published in The Manila Times last April 14, 2020)

IN the headlines of a lot of tri-media networks, public support for our frontliners regarding the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) has been pouring in profusely. There is a sense of bayanihan (cooperation) growing after the initial reaction of confusion and unpreparedness, of misunderstandings and of unguarded moments by Filipinos. Now, it is becoming clear that the government acted swiftly in order to contain the virus, albeit not perfectly but also not too late to be sorry.

In the event of the closures of business establishments, slowdown of manufacturing and productivity, construction stoppages and ban of public transport, people became more aware of staying at home, concerned for the welfare of others and praying this pandemic will end quickly. Big business groups like San Miguel Corp., Pagcor (Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp.), Wilcon Depot Inc., SM firms, Villar Group of Companies and a lot more have stepped forward, donating in tons of cash or in kind to fight Covid-19. Even small and medium enterprises have also chipped in by sending homemade PPE (personal protective equipment), food, free transport services for healthcare workers and the like. Local government units have started distributing food rations to depressed barangays (villages) and have opened their social services department to citizens just to help them get through this crisis.

Business institutions such as the Philippine Stock Exchange ended on a downtrend as the virus continued to create uncertainties in the market. Thift banks and smaller businesses sought more help in regulatory reliefs to remain liquid in order to provide assistance to the public. Even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas came in full support to the government’s intention of flattening the curve by buying government securities.

Amid all of this backing, professional groups not in the healthcare and medical businesses have grinded down to a halt. Construction work has stopped, food production and delivery services are down to the minimum and transportation services have been reduced to the barest necessity. Even funerals have been limited only to the families of the deceased. Spiritual gatherings and church services have all been suspended and may even continue to do so past Holy Week.

There were some professional groups that exerted efforts to help but have been requested to stay at home. Clearly, it this is no time for everyone to be a hero. Stay at home and stay alive. Flatten the curve. Kill the virus that way in order that it will not spread. Do work online if possible, or tend to the family. Clean the house in this time of need and uncertainty.

Now, what can the United Architects of the Philippines do to help the country? For those in the field of design, they should do their work online at home. Work on design concepts for Covid-19 patients that are faster, newer and safer, and send it to the UAP headquarters, where we will collate and submit to the government for their validation. For those in the design and construction service, stop work and take care of your workers’ health and welfare by being compassionate, and shelter them in case they have been stranded during lockdown.

More innovative are those architects in the healthcare and medical businesses since their role is to review the design flow in hospital planning as well as for research institutes.

Hospitals in the Philippines were not designed to tackle such extreme cases like this pandemic. Isolation facilities may be lacking or ill fitted for these extreme cases. Therefore, larger isolation facilities and its accessories should be considered.

Hospitals also are now in the spotlight with only a few of them catering to the greater population. A review of government policy and an encouragement to build by the government and the private sector are necessary. Together with the hospitals to be built are also their ancillary facilities, utilization of hospital gymnasiums as alternate temporary shelters and adopting the Korean wonder booths in separating the doctors and healthcare workers from the patients and making patient identifications quicker and faster. The bottom line: Better health care services for the people.

Architects can support the medical profession in terms of physical inventory, checking of the medical flow in hospitals and recommending to management the necessary functional and circulatory flow of patients and medical personnel, including equipment and infrastructures. And lastly, implement these proposals to augment additional changes in the operation of hospitals. These are what architects do best. They visualize in advance what has to be done.

Architects in the UAP-Emergency Architects who have done many alternative temporary shelters can communicate and collaborate with their nongovernmental organization partners in offering their temporary shelters to local governments who need to separate and isolate people tested positive of the virus. They need not expose themselves to risks in public and can do things online with the government delivering the services.

Architects in the manufacturing business can also help in the production of PPEs such as facial masks and acrylic boxes needed by our frontliners or hospitals. If they are not in the production business, architects can simply donate cash, food and delivery services or even provide hospital equipment, temporary shelters and PPEs for our frontline healthcare workers. And for the architects in the public or private utilities, their management skills can be useful in an organizational setup.

For the rest of the architects and other allied professionals, the best contribution they can do is to stay at home, work on innovative ideas that can be useful, make PPEs that can be distributed to healthcare workers and hospitals, give out extra food rations for hospital workers, spend moments with family members and do their part in allowing the healthcare workers, the police and military and the government to do their job. The UAP is encouraging architects to work on the designs of alternative permanent structures for Covid-19 patients and have these sent to the UAP headquarters where we will validate the designs before we submit them to the government. The UAP organization has written to the President of the Philippines thru the Inter-Agency Task Force, offering the services the architects and chapters nationwide in identifying and facilitating places capable of hosting Covid-19 patients.

In the aftermath of this pandemic, the government should review and eventually strengthen and make our healthcare system world-class and felt by the people.




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