Palace: Philippines' critical healthcare capacity remains 'manageable'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Philippines' critical healthcare capacity remains 'manageable'
Medical workers screen patients for possible COVID-19 before admission at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City on April 18, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — While the Department of Health has admitted that the critical care capacity of hospitals is approaching the “danger zone,” Malacañang claimed the situation remains "manageable" as there are still enough hospital beds for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the DOH is coordinating with hospitals to ensure that the patients would be admitted to establishments with enough healthcare facilities.

"With regard to critical care capacity, during our meeting, we were informed that (the utilization rate is) 60%. (DOH) Usec. (Leopoldo) Vega said it's at 70%, which is manageable," Roque said at a press briefing Tuesday.

"The work of the team of Usec. Vega is to coordinate with hospitals. They serve as liaisons so that when the ICU (intensive care unit) of a private hospital is already filled up, they can refer the patient to another hospital and the patient won't be turned away due to lack of space," he added.

Asked whether the country would run out of hospitals for COVID-19 patients, Roque replied: "Not under the system adopted by Usec. Vega because we are urging patients to just listen when informed about the hospital they can go to. They should not insist (on going to another hospital). They should not worry if one hospital's capacity is already filled up. They will be referred to another hospital."

"Overall, sapat-sapat naman po ang ating mga hospital beds kasama na na po diyan iyong ating mga ICU beds (we have sufficient hospital beds, including ICU beds)," he added.

Last Monday, Vega said the critical care capacity of hospitals, especially their ICU beds, is "now in the danger zone" because of the rise in the number of COVID-19 patients. He noted that 573 out of 739 ICU beds have been occupied as of July 8.

To address the problem, the government adopted a "one hospital system," which seeks to set-up COVID-19 bed allocation guidelines to ensure effective minimum and surge capacity in hospitals. The mechanism requires the government to expand hospital capacity by increasing COVID-19 bed allocations, provide additional health care personnel even for private hospitals; and augment hospital supplies.

At least three Metro Manila hospitals—St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, and the Makati Medical Center—have announced that their COVID-19 wards have reached full capacity.

Roque said the COVID-19 case doubling rate in Metro Manila is seven to ten days, which means that quarantine restrictions in the region may not be eased yet. The capital region, which has more than 22,000 COVID-19 cases, has been under general community quarantine since June 1.

"Our classification should not be upgraded. But we also cannot be under a more relaxed scenario," the Palace spokesman said, noting that an area has to achieve a case doubling rate of "almost 18 days" before it can be downgraded to the most lenient modified general community quarantine.

President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to announce the new quarantine classifications today (July 15).

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