MANILA, Philippines — The Private Hospital Association on Saturday expressed skepticism over Malacañang's proposal to give medical frontliners a break while utilization rates in COVID-19 facilities are still manageable.
The proposal was floated by presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Thursday, who cited Department of Health data which shows occupancy rates ranging from 41% to 47% for COVID-19 ward beds, isolation beds and ICU beds nationwide.
"Upon hearing that statement from the good spokesperson...I tried to call some hospitals to find out [the situation] and apparently, the suggestion, as of the moment, is not yet feasible," Dr. Jaime Almora, PHA president said during an interview with ANC.
Roque during a virtual briefing asked National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief Implementor Carlito Galvez Jr. to recommend a vacation for a number of frontliners while the country's critical care capacity is not yet overwhelmed. Galvez agreed to forward the proposal to Dr. Leopoldo Vega, the country's treatment czar.
However, Almora said it was not yet possible to implement such a recommendation for the following reasons:
- unpredictable nature of the arrival of COVID-19 patients
- rise in non-covid critical cases
- continued shortage of manpower in hospitals
"Although, it is true that [there is a] decreasing number of COVID cases in the hospital, the arrival of these cases are not predictable. Pabugso-bugso yung arrival nila (They arrive in fits and starts). The personnel still have to be ready," the PHA president said.
"Another reason is that the number of the emergency and critical cases in the hospitals are increasing, the non-COVID critical cases are increasing, these are the cases that I call the quarantine effect. Heart attacks, strokes: they are increasing and the personnel still need to attend to them," he added.
While he did not yet have the numbers to show how non-coronvirus critical cases have risen, Almora said this increase was experienced by his own hospital and has been conveyed to him by other health professionals he interviewed as well.
"There is still this continuing shortage of manpower in the hospitals. Shortage of doctors and nurses, so there's still a lot of work to be done by the remaining staff of the hospital," he added.
The Philippines' coronavirus caseload surpassed 351,000 on Thursday after the health department logged over 3,000 additional cases for the second time this week. The death toll stands at 6,531.
Of the 1,272 COVID-19 facilities tracked by the DOH nationwide, 559 fall under the "safe" category, meaning their occupancy rates are less than 30%. Another 252 facilities fall under the "warning" category, with occupancy levels ranging from 30-70%. Meanwhile, 193 hospitals fall under the "danger" category with occupancy rates of over 70%.
Almora said that while he would like to see a vacation or rest period for the country's health frontliners — who have fought to ward off a pandemic which has lingered for most of the year — "the business of healing is not that simple."
"As long as there is a case remaining, the people will still be needed to attend to them and because of the shortage of manpower, should their services not be needed in attending to covid cases, there are many other non-covid patients they have to attend to."