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‘Patients avoiding hospitals due to COVID-19 fears’

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
âPatients avoiding hospitals due to COVID-19 fearsâ
According to former PMA president Bu Castro, the health care industry is changing and “shaken by the unexpected invasion” of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ernie Peñaredondo, file

MANILA, Philippines — With almost half of patients now avoiding going to hospitals for fear of COVID, a former president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) has underscored the need for hospitals to adopt digital innovation to reach out to their patients.

According to former PMA president Bu Castro, the health care industry is changing and “shaken by the unexpected invasion” of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the past, he said, the “physician-patient relationship is reinforced by the fact that the patient and the physician see each other face to face, either in the clinic or in the hospital.”

But for fear of contracting COVID-19, he said many patients no longer want to visit hospitals, risking their own health and safety.

He cited a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that there has been a 40 percent decline in the number of persons who visit hospitals, including the emergency departments, due to fear of COVID-19.

“Even in the Philippines (hospital visits) have dropped sharply since the pandemic came even though doctors say patients are far less likely to catch the virus lying in a hospital bed than shopping in a store,” he said in a webinar yesterday organized by Globe Business.

At the same time, however, there are physicians who would rather not see their patients face to face also for fear of getting infected.

Castro said more than 40 doctors have died due to COVID-19.

He added there is a need to devise a way, such as telemedicine, so that doctors can reach out to their patients without exposing both parties to the risk of infection.

For his part, John Duenas, chief executive officer of HyBrain, digital provider of Hospital Information System, said digital innovations in the health care industry can provide solutions to the critical problems, particularly on the doctor/patient ratio.

Duenas said as of April 2020, there were 10 doctors to 10,000 population in the National Capital Region while there were 0.8 doctors to 10,000 population in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“Digitizing the health information lays the foundation of the digital health model in the emerging markets,” he added.

Pursue R&D

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) wants regional hospitals to pursue specialized medical research and development as it eyes the establishment of regional medical R&D centers.

Rowena Cristina Guevara, undersecretary for R&D, said they were letting in regional hospitals in their Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D or NICER program, which previously targeted state universities and colleges and private higher education institutions to host, run and manage such research centers.

This, Guevara said, will allow regional hospitals to establish centers for R&D that can specialize in priority fields of specialization like heart, lung, liver and kidney ailments.

She said that they will urge regional hospitals to submit proposals for establishing medical NICER hubs in their respective regions that can start in earnest by next year.

The DOST has allocated around P504 million for the establishment of seven more NICER hubs based in state universities and colleges and private higher education institutions this year.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the move to set up additional NICER hubs was aimed at fast-tracking innovation through all regions of the country.

“By supporting R&D, we serve academe, the local industry and, in turn, the country due to the entrepreneurial advancement provided to the local community,” Dela Peña said, citing the Center for Vector of Diseases to be established under De La Salle University-Laguna. – Rainier Allan Ronda

HOSPITAL PHILIPPINE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
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