Asked about quick access to hospital care, Roque incorrectly claims all can get medical assistance

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - April 12, 2021 - 2:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — It isn't a problem that Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque got admitted to a hospital room with ease since, he said, everyone who needs help will get it.

To recall, the president's spokesperson disclosed that he was admitted to a hospital for treatment for, as it turns out, a case of COVID-19 that has not kept him from holding press briefings.

Roque, who announced last month that he caught and recovered from the virus, said Sunday he was feeling normal again.

READ: Duterte's spokesman hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19 last month

"That is an un-Christian question," Roque told reporters Monday when asked about his quick access to a hospital bed. 

"Under the Duterte administration, anyone who needs medical attention will be given assistance," he also said in Filipino. He did not answer the question. 

Roque's claim is inconsistent with the situation on the ground. 

Stories of hospitals beyond capacity for coronavirus patients—prompting them to turn others away—are well documented. For patients seeking treatment, the only answer has been to search for aid outside of the nation's capital. Hospitals with space to take in more are dwindling and the distance from Manila grows. 

Neither Philippine General Hospital director Dr. Gap Legaspi, nor his spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario responded to requests for comment from Philstar.com when asked if the facility had different protocols for admitting government officials. 

Roque's pronouncement came at the same press briefing where Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega admitted: "The biggest problem of hospitals is paying Philhealth ... If you don't have enough financial resources, it will be difficult for you to provide extra allocation for beds."

"In order not to make our healthcare response difficult, so that we don't really strain, they have to open more beds," Vega said. 

But Roque said that having his "oxygen level [falling] to 90" justified confinement at PGH at a time when so many other severe cases were waiting.

READ: 'Full capacity everywhere': Manila hospitals struggle as virus surges

As it currently stands, the Department of Health already requires hospitals to allocate at least 30% of beds for coronavirus patients. Some patients have had to go to hospitals outside the capital while others have died while waiting in line for a bed.

Earlier on in the pandemic, the solution of the government's inter-agency task force for pandemic response was to retrofit state-owned concert halls and stadiums into quarantine venues to increase patient capacity.

With cases still surging and the country reverting to looser quarantine restrictions, other facilities, like university dorms and classrooms are being tapped too as isolation and vaccination sites.

On Sunday afternoon, the Department of Health logged 11,681 new coronavirus cases, bringing the national caseload to 864,868. Of which, 145,519 are classified as active cases. 

Exactly 391 days have passed since the first enhanced community quarantine in the country was hoisted, and the Philippines is still under the world's longest quarantine. 

— with reports from Christian Deiparine 

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