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Monday, March 4, 2024

Gov’t eyes more beds, RT-PCR tests

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The national government will be ramping up hospital bed capacity, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing, and vaccination in the wake of record high daily Covid-19 infections.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the acting Presidential Spokesperson, said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Sub-Technical Working Group (sTWG) on Data Analytics recommended implementing an increase in the availability of bed capacity in the National Capital Region (NCR) and surrounding areas (NCR Plus).

NCR Plus is composed of the NCR and the nearby provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal.

He said the IATF-sTWG also recommended coordinating with the relevant stakeholders to integrate monitoring of the capacity of Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMFs) in its measurement of health systems capacity.

Nograles noted that the task force suggested ensuring that patients needing care are promptly and appropriately referred as well as reassessing the capacity of TTMFs, increasing TTMF capacity where needed, and removing any referral quotas from hospitals.

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He said the Department of Health (DOH) Field Implementation and Coordination Team (FICT) and the National Task Force (NTF) Health Facilities Sub-Cluster have been instructed to immediately communicate with NCR hospitals to determine how the Covid-19 bed capacity is being allocated.

The NTF Health Facilities Sub-Cluster, together with the DOH Knowledge Management and Information Technology Service, were instructed to increase the capacity of telehealth and telemedicine outside NCR, he added.

The One Hospital Command Center was recommended to ensure as close to real-time updating of health systems capacity as possible based on functional bed capacity to take into consideration the level of available health care workers.

Nograles said the IATF sTWG on Data Analytics tasked the Community Response Cluster and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to ensure that Emergency Operations Centers with functional triage areas are in place in all local government units (LGUs).

These triage areas shall oversee patient navigation so that only those needing hospitalization are brought to the health facilities.

They are also directed to ensure that those undergoing home isolation or quarantine are monitored by Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams and that access to testing, treatment, and facility referral be made available, especially for the elderly, those with comorbidities, or those belonging to vulnerable sectors.

They have likewise been directed to intensify active case finding in the NCR Plus areas and to intensify active case finding and contact tracing strictly up to the 3rd generation in all areas under Alert Level 2.

To handle the influx of tests, Nograles said the IATF sTWG on Data Analytics recommended the Covid-19 Laboratory Network to increase RT-PCR testing capacity in NCR Plus by ensuring that laboratories are operational seven days a week.

The IATF sTWG also recommended prioritizing senior citizens and persons with comorbidities or those under the A2 and A3 priority list.

Applications for Licenses to Operate for new RT-PCR laboratories were recommended to be fast-tracked.

The IATF sTWG was also urged to promptly provide commodities for swabbing and testing.

The National Vaccination Operations Center was also directed to increase vaccination rates outside NCR “as soon as possible.”

To date, over 50 million individuals in the Philippines are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Nograles urged symptomatic Covid-19 patients to immediately isolate to help slow down the spread of infections.

On the other hand, those with mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 may isolate themselves in their own homes.

He, however, said LGUs should be able to provide services such as telemedicine and immediate referral so that those requiring additional management may be assessed and treated appropriately.

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