Palace: Critical care capacity out of 'danger zone'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace: Critical care capacity out of 'danger zone'
The National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) sets up a tent to serve as the receiving area for medical workers to screen possible COVID-19 patients in Quezon City on April 2, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' critical care capacity is no longer in the danger zone as there are more available hospital beds for patients infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said only about half of the intensive care unit (ICU) and isolation beds have been occupied while about three fourths of ventilators remain available as of July 19.  

"We are now at 50%. The danger point is 70% while 50% is within medium risk so we are now in medium risk as far as critical care capacity is concerned," Roque said at a virtual press briefing.

"Actually, this is good news because we have more available ICU and hospital beds," he added.

Citing health department data as of July 19, Roque said that 49% or 665 out of 1,358 ICU beds have been occupied.

A total of 5,196 out of 10,573 isolation beds or 49.1 % are in use. A little more than half (54.9%) or 2,013 out of 3,665 ward beds have been occupied while 25.3 % or 503 out of 1,485 ventilators are in use.  

Earlier this month, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the critical care capacity of hospitals was in the "danger zone" because of the rising number of persons infected with COVID-19. The utilization rate of ICU beds exceeded 70% during the first week of July.

To ensure that COVID-19 patients will not be turned away by hospitals, the government is implementing a "one hospital system," which aims to augment the bed capacity and health personnel of hospitals. The system also refers patients to hospitals that still have enough bed capacities.

Roque previously said patients may avail of medical services offered by other local government units if the health capacity of their areas have been filled up.

The Philippines has logged more than 68,000 COVID-19 cases with more than 1,800 deaths.

More COVID-19 hospitals sought

As the number of infected persons continue to rise, Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of the national policy on COVID-19, said there should be four hospitals dedicated to the pandemic in Metro Manila. He said non-COVID-19 patients would suffer if hospitals get overwhelmed.

"It would be good if we have four hospitals dedicated to COVID in Metro Manila. Patients with COVID eat up a percentage (of hospital beds) and non-COVID patients are compromised, those who are undergoing dialysis, those with cancer, they become the casualties," Galvez said during the meeting of the government's pandemic task force last Monday.

"We will be recommending zoning in NCR (National Capital Region). We should have four COVID hospitals just like what China did. In ten days, they built a COVID-dedicated hospital," he added.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said there are already three Metro Manila hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, namely Philippine General Hospital, National Kidney Institute, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

Officials also vowed to expand the Philippines' testing capacity to achieve the government's goal of testing 10 million people by 2021.

Health Secretary Franciso Duque III said the Philippines has a daily testing capacity of 74,000 but only about 25,000 tests are conducted per day.

"We hope to be able to do the test at 32,000 to about 40,000 a day, Mr. President. But we can't test everyone. No country has done this, even the richest ones like the United States of America," Duque said during the meeting.
"We will be able to test ten percent (of the population). Of the total population of the Philippines at 109 million, we might be able to reach about 10 million," he added.

Asked whether President Rodrigo Duterte wants to conduct mass testing, Roque replied: "If we can afford it, why not? But the reality is, we cannot afford to test 110 million Filipinos. But the government is undertaking steps to expand our testing."

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