VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Reader cites Manila Times’ inaccurate report on ‘medical’ strike, photos of Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital staff

A VERA Files reader has called attention to a Manila Times’ caption on a set of photos falsely claiming that “health workers” at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital have threatened to stage a labor strike due to inadequate compensation.

The media company revised the caption the next day, stating that the photos were taken at a different hospital in Tondo, Manila. However, the edited text is misleading because at least two of the posted photos have been verified to have been taken at the makeshift facility.

STATEMENT

On Aug. 14, the Manila Times posted on its Facebook page seven photos by photographer Mike Alquinto showing a healthcare worker performing a medical procedure on a patient suspected to have the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the city of Manila’s makeshift COVID-19 Field Hospital in Rizal Park. The photos were captioned:

“DOH UNDER SIEGE AS HEALTH WORKERS THREATEN LOCKDOWN

Health workers are seen outside the Manila Covid-19 field hospital at the Luneta Grandstand, on Aug. 14, 2021. They have threatened to go on 'medical lockdown' over low salaries and lack of benefits. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire assured health workers that the DoH will comply with the deficiencies cited in the Commission on Audit report.”

Source: Manila Times, LOOK: DoH under siege as health workers threaten lockdown (see edit history), Aug. 14, 2021 (Archived)

The Manila-based publication also posted on its website six of the seven photos appearing on its Facebook page.

On Aug. 15, the Manila Times revised the caption on the photos posted on its official Facebook page and website, indicating that those were actually captured at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila (nearly 3 kilometers away from the field hospital). The revised caption said:

“A health worker swabs and takes a blood sample from a patient at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Hospital in Tondo, Manila on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.”

Source: Manila Times, A health worker..., Aug. 14, 2021 (Archived)
FACT

The Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital, through physician Arlene Raule-Dominguez, its officer in charge, has refuted the claim in the initial Manila Times photo caption that its medical staff have threatened to stage a “medical lockdown.”

In an Aug. 15 statement, released a day after the Manila Times report circulated online, Raule-Dominguez said the hospital management and staff were committed to fulfilling their duties for their patients and do not want to be involved in “politicking.” She said they “condemn any efforts to malign the reputation of the medical professionals of our hospital and demeaning the sacrifices of each of us through irresponsible and false reporting.”

Raule-Dominguez also clarified that photos published on Facebook by a “publication” that she did not name do not show the actual staff of the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital. She acknowledged, however, that the other photos posted online correctly showed the health facility and ambulance.

The Manila Times’ erroneous report came after several labor unions warned in the previous week that unresolved issues on low compensation and inadequate employment benefits for private healthcare workers may result in mass resignation or medical lockdown.

After the photo caption was revised, the Manila Times post still bore inaccuracies when it failed to clarify that not all of the photos by Alquinto were taken at the Gat Andres Bonifacio hospital site. At least two of the seven photos posted on its official Facebook page and one on its website were verified to have been taken at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital.

The photos featured two persons wearing personal protective equipment and an ambulance with some visual markings such as its plate 5JT 250, the words “SAH” and “Maynila” (which has been verified to be an ambulance from the Santa Ana Hospital in the city of Manila), and two shipping containers coated in white paint.

Comparing the photos with those published by the Philippine Star, also on Aug. 14, and the Manila city government’s official website, on June 25, the photos were verified as those of the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital, a 344-bed quarantine facility for COVID-19 patients showing mild to moderate symptoms. The makeshift facility is located in front of the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

The publication company also did not provide any notice of correction to its readers. As of Aug. 17 (9 a.m.), the photos on its website have been viewed 600 times and its Facebook post has garnered more than 400 likes and reactions, 148 shares, and at least 230 comments, many of which denounce the meager pay for the health workers.

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VERA Files Fact Check could not trace the location of the remaining photos of a health worker taking swab and blood samples from a patient.


Sources

Manila Times, LOOK: DoH under siege as health workers threaten lockdown, Aug. 14, 2021 (Archived)

People’s Television, Manila Health Department official statement on medical lockdown threat, Aug. 15, 2021

Philippine Star, Health workers wearing protective suits are seen at the Manila Field Hospital in Quirino Grandstand, Manila on Saturday., Aug. 14, 2021

Manila government official website, TINGNAN: Tumanggap na ng mga pasyente ngayong araw, ika-25 ng Hunyo ang Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital | Lungsod ng Maynila, June 25, 2021

Manila Standard, Nurses resign en masse, says group, over unpaid benefits, Aug. 16, 2021

Philstar.com, Nurses, health workers nagbanta ng mass resignation | Pilipino Star Ngayon, Aug. 14, 2021

ABS-CBN News, Grupo ng health workers muling nagbanta ng mass resignation, protesta | TV Patrol, Aug. 16, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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