A few months ago, one of my OFS, Jam, talked about taking care of his mom and how he would accompany her to doctor’s appointments. I mentioned in my video and podcast that we do it differently in the US. We mostly take ourselves to the hospital.  Same thing when we have someone confined in a hospital. We visit during visiting hours. The nurses, doctors, and medical staff are the ones who take care of them.

Apparently, things are different in the Philippines. Another explanation why many Filipino workers take days off or leave their jobs when a family member gets sick.

Julia shares.

When a sick family member needs to be hospitalized, at least 2 people go to the hospital: the patient and the “watcher”.

The hospital watcher is ideally a close family member assigned to care for the patient and stay with them in the hospital. They are responsible for the following:
– getting updates from nurses and doctors on the condition, procedures, and patient instructions,
– making medical decisions or getting medical decisions from family members authorized to do so.

Because of this, the watcher is usually also someone who:
– Can (or has to) take time off from work
– Isn’t working
– Someone who can work anywhere (like your OFS).

Being a hospital watcher is hard. So, the family usually shares the watcher duties amongst several relatives. But there’s usually a main watcher; they’re the ones who often stay overnight, stay there the most, know the patient best, and can make medical decisions if needed.

Hospital watchers aren’t really needed. Hospitals in the Philippines don’t require patients to have watchers. Most private hospitals prefer if you don’t have one. But because of our strong family ties, most people can’t bear the thought of having their loved ones alone in the hospital cared for by strangers, even if these strangers are medical professionals with years of experience providing round-the-clock care. Because nobody can really take care of you like family.

The exception is government hospitals. Patients there are required to have a watcher because they don’t have enough medical personnel to constantly monitor the patients.

We’re so used to having watchers around that some hospitals also provide food and hygiene kits for them if asked. Most patient rooms have couches or small beds for the watcher to sleep in. Some fancier hospitals even have closets for the watcher to store clothes or a kitchenette for simple food prep.

I know hospital watchers aren’t necessary, but I was so thankful that my mom and husband were my watchers after my difficult C-section years ago.
– I didn’t have to call the nurse to help me go to the restroom, have a drink, or make me more comfortable.
– The doctors could just go to my room and ask my mom or husband when they needed to do a procedure on my child (who was in the NICU then) or me.
– I was confident that I got good postpartum care because my watchers were there asking the nurses questions on what to do and watching them how to do it properly.
– Also, I don’t like the idea of a stranger bathing me. Even if that stranger is a nurse. Keeping myself clean that time was easier because my watchers were there.

Because I work from home (and my good bedside manner), I’ve become something of an on-call watcher, even for extended family members. Usually, on weekdays, when most of the family are working or to take over so the primary watcher can rest a bit.

Many hospitals have also gotten used to online workers as watchers because the last hospital I was in (while watching my aunt) had really good WiFi. It wasn’t as good as the one I have at home, but good enough to do most of the work while I was there.

But there’s also a downside with watchers. Some families can overdo it. I’ve visited hospital rooms with too many watchers for just one patient.

This can stress out the patient and increase the risk of infection. This was evident in the early days of the pandemic when so many watchers contracted Covid.

The hospitals have gotten stricter with allowing watchers in hospitals. They also impose strict “no watchers” policy in places like the ICU or quarantine areas to minimize patient stress and infection.


I had no idea.

Now I understand so much better why “my aunt is sick” is used as a reason for not working so often.


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