Starting Friday, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) will be taking in COVID-19 patients to help ease the burden of other hospitals and to allow them to focus on treating patients with other ailments.
According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, PGH initially allocated 130 beds for COVID-19 patients whose conditions ranged from severe to critical.
Two other referral centers are expected to receive coronavirus patients within the week—Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, formerly Tala Leprosarium, in Caloocan City.
Looking for others
Currently, Vergeire said, the Department of Health (DOH) was still scouting for other hospitals that have the capacity to take in severe to critical patients, especially as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise.
She noted that the DOH only gave priority to the setting up of the three referral centers in Metro Manila, where coronavirus cases are concentrated.
The DOH reported 84 new cases on Wednesday, pushing the nationwide total to 636.
There are now 26 patients who have recovered from the disease with the addition of six patients. The death toll, however, has increased to 38 as three more patients have died.
Patient 319, a 56-year-old man from Quezon City, died of community-acquired pneumonia a day after he learned he contracted the virus on Saturday. The patient, who neither traveled abroad nor was exposed to a confirmed case, had hypertension and diabetes.
Patient 326, a 57-year-old man from Caloocan City, also did not travel abroad or had contact with a positive case. He died on March 16 of acute respiratory distress syndrome but was only found to be positive for the virus on Saturday.
The patient had hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia.
Patient 29, an 82-year-old woman from Marikina City, went to the United States and was in close contact with a positive case before falling ill. She died on Monday of acute respiratory disease and acute renal failure.
She was confirmed positive for the coronavirus on March 10.
The patients who have recovered from the disease are Patient 95 (a 64-year-old woman from Batangas), Patient 10 (a 57-year-old man from Quezon City), Patient 18 (a 41-year-old man from Pasig City), Patient 82 (a 66-year-old man from Quezon City), Patient 31 (a 28-year-old woman from San Juan City) and Patient 23 (a 30-year-old woman from San Juan City).
Previously, the DOH discharged patients upon testing negative twice for the virus. But now, Vergeire said, a patient who tests positive for the virus need not be tested again before being discharged by the hospital.
“If he is already asymptomatic and results for such tests as CBC (complete blood count), chest X-ray are normal, he can already be discharged. But he still has to undergo a 14-day quarantine,” she said.
Vergeire said the DOH updated its protocol “based on the recommendation of experts” to free up hospitals, especially if the patient was already stable and just waiting for his results.
Once the three referral centers become operational, Vergeire said, the other hospitals would start funneling in their severe to critical cases to these facilities.
She noted that while triaging and assessment could still be done in other hospitals, those who belong to the vulnerable population, like the elderly and those with severe conditions, would be referred to the government hospitals.
“Once we start this, the hospitals would be decongested and they could start accepting non-COVID patients who could no longer be served [by the three facilities],” she said.
Vergeire reiterated the DOH’s call for volunteer health care workers for the three centers, acknowledging that the current staff complement of these hospitals might not be enough to provide the public with continuing care.
She noted that because of hiring limitations, the DOH could not absorb more health workers, hence the need for volunteers. She gave assurance, though, that the volunteers would be provided daily allowance and be covered by the benefits under the newly signed Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act.
The law provides that health workers who would contract the virus would be given P100,000. In case of death, their families will receive P1 million.
Vergeire said the DOH was distributing nearly 8,000 test kits to the five subnational laboratories. She added that Singapore on Wednesday also gave the DOH 5,000 test kits, which would be distributed once validation on them has been done.