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Continuous increase in hospital capacities needed

Senator Win Gatchalian urged hospitals to continuously expand their patient capacity for COVID-19 cases that could overload the country’s healthcare system.


QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The East Avenue Medical Center, a government-owned tertiary general hospital, as seen during the enhanced community quarantine period, 12 May 2020. While the hospital recently opened a new six-story building called Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases (CERID) that increases its bed capacity for COVID-19 patients, Senator Win Gatchalian urged hospitals to continuously expand their patient capacity for CoViD-19 cases that could overload the country’s healthcare system. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The senator cited the latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) showing that the number of COVID-19 ward beds in the National Capital Region (NCR), or for those mild cases, asymptomatic, and suspected ones, have reached 82% capacity. Isolation beds in the NCR, similar to those at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), are almost 70% occupied. ICU beds have reached 70% capacity, while half of the available ventilators are already occupied.

Nationwide, ward beds have reached 51% capacity, isolation beds and ICU beds have each reached 47% capacity, respectively.

Although Gatchalian sees a good balance with Metro Manila and neighboring provinces now again placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) in pushing forward the country’s economy and managing the health care system, he however expressed fears that this will entail further movement of people and will encourage more interaction, which could increase the rate of infection and will put hospital capacity under pressure in the next two weeks.

“My fear really is the capacity of the hospitals to treat patients, especially in the NCR because it is the hotbed. By loosening up the economy under GCQ, hospital capacity might be put under pressure and if we don’t increase capacities for our hospitals, we will definitely see around 90% or even more in terms of our isolation and ICU capacities,” Gatchalian said.

A pronouncement was made by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) that the danger point is when our hospital capacity reaches 70%, according to the senator, emphasizing that the pronouncement was made a month ago when COVID-19 cases were only 70 thousand.

The senator stressed that there is a need to monitor very closely the occupancy rate and critical care capacity of all hospitals nationwide.

“By these actions we will stop the spread which could overload our healthcare system, our emergency rooms and our hospitals, and we can continue to provide the necessary health care to the people,” Gatchalian said.

The senator reiterated the need to put up makeshift hospitals in various local governments for patients with mild symptoms and those who are recovering from the disease, to ease the burden of hospitals and medical facilities.

“Hindi na natin dapat hintayin pang mapuno ang ating mga ospital. Dapat manguna na ang Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) sa programang pagpapatayo ng mga pansamantalang pagamutan para mas maging mabilis ang tugon lalo na’t pataas nang pataas ang bilang ng kaso ng COVID-19,” said Gatchalian.

The senator likewise reminded the DILG to ensure that all barangays strictly comply with directives to establish Barangay Isolation Units (BIUs) and mobilize Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERT).