8 June 2020, Quezon City. A medical frontliner who succumbed not from the dreaded novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but from the supposed inhalation of a bleach disinfectant solution, should strengthen safety protocols on the preparation and use of such a mixture, especially in quarantine facilities.
The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition called for improved disinfection protocols following the untimely death of Capt. Casey Gutierrez, a 31-year old doctor of the Philippine National Police (PNP) assigned at the PhilSports Arena, which has been repurposed as a quarantine facility.
“We mourn the death of another heroic doctor on the frontline of our nation’s fight against COVID-19,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Gutierrez died last May 30 due to “massive pulmonary embolism,” which may have been triggered by the inhalation of a toxic substance according to police authorities.
"His untimely death should lead to better workplace safety protocols on decontamination to avoid a repeat of such a toxic tragedy," Dizon said.
"We support a full and impartial probe on the doctor's death led by toxicological experts from the Department of Health (DOH)," he added.
Gutierrez was hospitalized for a few days after being sprayed with a disinfectant solution containing sodium hypochlorite, a caustic chemical found in bleach, after attending to a patient last May 24. He was wearing his personal protective equipment (PPE) when he was sprayed with the said solution after which he unexpectedly suffered from breathing difficulties.
COVID-19 front liners wearing full PPEs may be subjected to misting or spraying of disinfectant solution as per the DOH.
According to DOH Memorandum No. 2020-0157, “individuals in full PPEs, characterized as having no external skin exposure, may be subjected to misting or spraying before doffing their full PPEs with careful consideration of the eyes, nose, mouth/throat.”
Two more police front liners at the PhilSports Arena, Staff Sgt. Steve Rae Salamanca and Cpl. Runie Toledo, have been taken to the PNP General Hospital due to difficulty in breathing after undergoing the decontamination process.
PNP Chief, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, on Sunday instructed PNP Deputy Chief for Administration. Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, to coordinate with the DOH for an independent investigation on Gutierrez’s death.