A former Health secretary said the surge in coronavirus cases has set the country “10 steps back from square one,” as some Metro Manila hospitals have filled up 80 to 85 percent of their COVID-19 bed capacity, putting them in the “high risk” category.
“We are not back to square one. We are 10 steps back from square one,” former Health secretary Esperanza Cabral said in a statement posted by Dr. Tony Leachon on Twitter Wednesday.
Cabral noted that COVID-19 cases are on the rise and hospitals are once again getting overwhelmed. However, she said this time it was different.
“Square one was when we had just shut down the economy and people had spare change in their pockets and a small ‘ayuda’ (assistance) became available no matter how inept the distribution became. Square one was when the private sector was able to step up, provide financial protection for their employees and spend billions and billions to help others. We don’t have those things this time,” Cabral said.
“Square one was when hospitals were full but doctors and other health care workers, though scared to get COVID-19 themselves and still guessing how to treat something they had never met before, were fresh and eager to do battle with this particular enemy,” Cabral added.
But now, she said health workers are “tired just like everyone else.”
“They might have learned a lot but still not enough,” said Cabral, who was Health secretary during the Arroyo administration and who is now with the group Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare.
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said the capacity of some hospitals in three Metro Manila cities are now under the “high risk” category, which means the occupancy of their COVID-19 bed capacity has reached 80 to 85 percent.
This, as the daily new COVID-19 cases recorded in the country continued to log more than 4,000 new cases a day for the last six days.
“We found out that in some hospitals especially in Makati, Quezon City and Taguig, both public and private, are already in the high-risk category. Some of them reaching 80 to 85 percent of their capacity,” Vega said in Filipino.
An official of the Sampaloc Hospital in Manila said on Thursday that it was nearing full capacity for COVID-19 patients as cases surged in the capital region.
Some 19 out of 25 beds for virus patients are occupied, said hospital director Dr. Aileen Lacsamana.
“The hospital has only a 50-bed capacity. We adjusted to accommodate COVID patients because as you know we’re the hospital in the Sampaloc area which has the highest number of cases,” Lacsamana said in an interview on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.
Half of the hospital’s capacity is allotted for non-COVID maternity patients, Lacsamana said.
Seven hospital staff have so far tested positive for the virus but are recovering, she added.
In Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Sta. Cruz, some 27 health workers have contracted the disease mostly from the community and their homes, said medical chief Dr. Esmeraldo Ilem.
The hospital currenty has one active infection– an asymptomatic mother who had just given birth.
“The baby tested negative for the coronavirus, [and] the mother did not infect health workers,” Ilem said.
Nationwide, the health care utilization rate was still at a low risk f 43 percent occupancy for hospitals, but the trend is rising, Vega said.
Vega said if the surge continues, they will coordinate with hospitals in Central Luzon and Calabarzon to assist other hospitals that are at full capacity.
They also added more intensive care unit beds as well as modular beds in different hospitals, Vega said.
The Department of Health (DOH) can help hospitals that need additional health workers in case they are overwhelmed, he added.
The Philippines logged on Thursday 5,290 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total infections to 640,984, the DOH reported.
This marks the seventh consecutive day where more than 4,000 daily cases were reported.
The DOH reported 21 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 12,887, which is 2.01 percent of the total.
The DOH also reported that 439 persons recovered from the disease recently, bringing total recoveries to 561,530, which is 87.6 percent of the total cases.
This left 66,567 active cases, which is 10.4 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 93.3 percent are mild; 3.7 percent are asymptomatic; 1.2 percent are critical; 1.2 percent are severe; and 0.64 percent are moderate.
The DOH also reported that, nationwide, of the total ICU bed capacity, 51 percent is available; of the total isolation bed capacity, 60 percent is available; of the total ward bed capacity, 68 percent is available; and of the total number of ventilators, 72 percent are available.
Also on Thursday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is now identifying additional quarantine and isolation facilities inside its headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, as it grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases among its ranks.
“PNP is part of the general population. The country, particularly Metro Manila is experiencing an upsurge of cases, and the same goes for us, especially because we are also front-liners,” PNP officer-in-charge, Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar told reporters.
He said among those initially identified for additional quarantine facilities is the whole Kiangan Building that houses the Provident Funds and the Public Safety Savings and Loan Association, Inc.
As of Wednesday night, the PNP has 1,105 active COVID-19 cases.