PGH, Lung Center, Dr. Jose M. Rodriguez designated as exclusive COVID-19 hospitals
Hospital officials Hian Kua (R) and Mario Juco inspect the interior of the holding area for patients suspected of being infected with a deadly SARS-life virus which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan before they are put in isolation, at the Manila Doctors Hospital compound in Manila on January 31, 2020.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
PGH, Lung Center, Dr. Jose M. Rodriguez designated as exclusive COVID-19 hospitals
( - March 20, 2020 - 9:18am

MANILA, Philippines (5th update, 8:32 p.m.) — In a move to centralize efforts as private hospitals are reeling from a drastically reduced workforce and resources, Health Secretary Francisco Duque designated three public hospitals as exclusive facilities for COVID-19 patients.

Duque on Friday directed public hospitals UP-Philippine General Hospital to transform one building and the Dr. Jose M. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital to serve those gravely ill with the novel coronavirus infection.

The health secretary bared this in an interview with dzMM on Friday morning in a response to the plea of a group of private hospitals.

The DOH later on announced that the Lung Center of the Philippines will also become another referral hospital.

The alliance of 11 hospitals issued a statement Thursday, March 19 calling on the national government and the Department of Health to designate hospitals for patients infected with the new pathogen, saying the growing health crisis had begun to overwhelm healthcare centers.

READ: 'We are very scared': With depleting resources, private hospitals appeal for designated COVID-19 facilities

Duque said that PGH would provide some 140 rooms for COVID-19 patients while Rodriguez, also called DJNRMHS, would be a "specialized COVID hospital."

In a statement issued later that day, the Health department confirmed that UP-PGH began ceasing admission for non-emergency cases to free up wards and rooms.

"The initiative will require full support from the NCR medical community since additional health care workers will be needed to complement PGH's existing workforce," the memo read. 

According to the document, the Philippine Blood Center would also not be admitting any suspected COVID-19 patients for the time being. This was because the public was encouraged "to continue donating blood" to ensure adequate and continuous supply for critical and severe patients, they said.  

Asked about the hospital's capacity for such a designation and what led to the agreement of just one facility for it, PGH has not yet responded to's query as of this writing. 

From public to private, for now

The private hospitals, meanwhile, said that once a centralized arrangement has been ordered, non-COVID-19 patients would have to be transferred from the designated facilities to other hospitals.

"We are ready to take in the non-COVID-19 patients of the designated COVID-19 hospitals, and if necessary, provide temporary practice privileges to their medical staff whose (non-COVID-19) patients will be transferred to our hospitals," the alliance of private hospitals said.

It is not yet clear, however, whether the transferred patients and their families will be charged the same rates in the private facilities that they would pay for in the public hospitals.

Lung Center to dedicate one wing

DOH Undersecretary Rosette Vergeire disclosed that the department was looking at the Lung Center of the Philippines for a similar setup.

"I spoke with Vince Balanag, the executive director, he said, 'It would be difficult for that to do since we have many cancer patients who are using linear accelerators," Duque said in Filipino. Linear accelerators are large machines often custom-fit to hospital rooms to deliver radiation treatments to cancer patients.

The department's compromise with the Lung Center, Duque said, was that the hospital would instead provide around 40 rooms committed for COVID-19 patients.

The DOH later on announced that the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) will also dedicate one wing with 40 beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

"Because LCP is the referral hospital for patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and lung cancer, care must be taken not to expose these immunocompromised patients," the DOH said in a statement.

The health chief affirmed the appeals of private hospitals, saying he supported their pronouncements. Some private hospitals were giving equipment, including respirators, for patients of the virus, he said.

As of this writing, Duque himself is working from home on self-isolation for suspected COVID-19 transmission. 

Though he has already been tested, his results have not yet been released. — Franco Luna

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