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Medics stranded in Manila clamor to return to Kuwait

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: The Philippine Embassy is coordinating with Kuwaiti authorities to allow 64 Filipino medical workers contracted with the health ministry to return to Kuwait. The medical workers, mostly nurses and lab technicians, have been stranded outside the country since Kuwait closed its airport in March, and later banned people returning directly from 34 countries, including the Philippines.

The 64 medical workers in Manila are hoping for a chartered flight straight from the Philippines to Kuwait, similar to a flight that brought 116 Indian medical workers from India late last week. They are willing to adhere to the 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Kuwait and take the PCR test as required. The Philippines has recorded a total 307,000 coronavirus cases as of yesterday, out of a population of 109 million people.

“We really want to go back to work at the ministry of health because it’s been six long months without work since our vacation in February. We do not want to take the risk of going to a third country for quarantine, since it’s very risky. We do not know whether we will test negative or positive at the end of the 14-day quarantine period. There are people who reportedly tested positive while in quarantine, so we do not want to take the risk,” said Mary Grace Grajo, who hails from Surigao Del Sur in the Philippines and is part of the group of 64 medical workers appealing to return to Kuwait.

Kuwait already brought back 23 nurses on Aug 1 via a chartered flight directly from Manila. Grajo was meant to be included in that first batch of returnees, but the final list of approved names was curtailed and she was left out. “I was not included in the final list, although in the list of 40 names provided by the MoH, mine was included. So we are waiting for the next batch. The problem is we are paying for our hotel stay in Manila – we are spending money here and are not sure when we can go back to Kuwait,” Grajo told Kuwait Times.

Another MoH nurse, Betty Nulada, worries that she will run out of money before she can return to Kuwait. Some nurses stuck abroad had their salaries stopped in April, others in June. “My vacation was in February. We would like to return to work soon, but this is only possible if the Kuwaiti government allows us to fly back via a chartered flight direct to Kuwait. We are ready to rejoin the ministry, but we need help. We appeal to the Philippine Embassy and the ministry of health in Kuwait to help us, because we’ve been here waiting for long and we do not know when we can come back,” said Nulada, who hails from Iloilo.

“The problem is we came to Manila from various provinces and are paying hotel charges daily. We have been waiting for help as promised by the Philippine Embassy, but it’s taking time. We have been spending money since the time we were called – we were asked to undergo swab tests and paid for it from our own pockets. Yet we are stuck here waiting for the directive from Kuwait,” Nulada added.

Asked about the assistance by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, Vice Consul Charleson Hermusura said the embassy has already sent a note verbale to the Kuwaiti government requesting that Filipino medical workers be immediately allowed to return to Kuwait.

“We are hoping for a favorable decision, which may only come from Kuwait’s ministry of health. The embassy strongly believes, especially at a critical time like this pandemic, the return of Filipino medical workers and nurses to Kuwait will bring back the high level of technical expertise and patient care for which they have earned a stellar reputation and profound admiration worldwide,” Hermusura told Kuwait Times via text message.

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