Contrary to government statistics, hospitals in Metro Manila and nearby provinces are already operating at full capacity and are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, the medical officer of One Hospital Command Center (OHCC) said Friday.
“We still receive 400 to 500 calls per day, and it is really hard to find a hospital for patients in Region 4A, Region 3 and the National Capital Region (NCR) where most our our calls are coming from,” said Dr. Marylaine Padlan of OHCC, which refers patients to hospitals or health facilities.
Padlan said health workers have told her that the health care utilization data presented by the government showing that utilization rate is still below 100 percent does not reflect the situation on the ground because it does not include the situation in hospital emergency rooms.
The health care utilization data do not show the availability of ER beds, she said.
Padlian said the health care utilization rate in Regions 1 and 2, as well as the Cordillera Administrative Region and Caraga Administrative Region, are also at high risk.
“We refer the patient to the hospital nearest to them, but most of those who call us, we refer them to the NCR hospitals because the tertiary hospitals needed by severe and critical patients are also in NCR,” Padlan said.
The Department of Health (DOH) said new COVID-19 cases in the NCR could range from 16,0000 to 43,000 a day by the end of September.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire offered this estimate after the University of the Philippines COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said cases could rise to 30,000 to 40,000 a day by the end of September or early October, as the positivity rate remains high, at nearly 30 percent, which means that one in every three tests could turn out to be positive.
Vergeire, however, held up the hope that the granular lockdowns being tested in Metro Manila could bring the numbers down.
"Hopefully with what we are doing right now, with this pilot implementation, we will not reach this kind of projection," she said in a press briefing.
Metro Manila, with nearly 13.5 million population, is under Alert Level 4 in a 5-tier COVID-19 system, which the government hopes will spur economic activity.
Vergeire said the new alert level system would be assessed weekly.
As Metro Manila shifted to the new scheme, which includes localized lockdowns, restaurants, salons and other small businesses have reopened after temporary closure for weeks due to the Delta variant.
Outdoor dining is allowed at 30 percent capacity, while indoor dining is limited to small groups of fully vaccinated individuals. Outdoor religious gatherings and personal care services are allowed also at up to 30 percent of venue capacity.
The Philippines logged 20,336 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total number of infections to 2,324,475.
There were 310 new fatalities, bringing the COVID-19 death toll to 36,328.
The DOH also reported 10,028 new recoveries, bringing the total recoveries to 2,100,039.
There were 188,108 active cases, the highest since April 18, of which 87.6 percent were mild, 8.1 percent were asymptomatic, 0.6 percent were critical, 1.3 percent were severe, and 2.49 percent were moderate.
The positivity rate is at 26.6 percent based on the test results of 75,766 people on Wednesday, according to the DOH’s latest bulletin, equivalent to one positive result out of every four tests.
Nationwide, 77 percent of the ICU beds, 68 percent of the isolation beds, 73 percent of the ward beds, and 57 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
In Metro Manila, 79 percent of the ICU beds, 64 percent of the isolation beds, 74 percent of the ward beds, and 62 percent of the ventilators, were in use.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte ordered the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) to monitor closed-settings and long-term facilities as COVID-19 outbreaks continued to be reported.
Included for close monitoring are convents, orphanages, nursing homes for the aged, rehabilitation centers, shelters for street children, halfway homes for victims of violence and abuse, hospices and even correctional facilities.
“We cannot just be reactive every time there is an outbreak. We see a trend of reported outbreaks in high-risk facilities. Let’s act on this first. We will test them and check if they have strict health protocols in place,” Belmonte said.
She also directed CESU chief Dr. Rolando Cruz to determine the vaccination status of individuals staying or working in such facilities and convince those who have not yet been vaccinated to take the jab.
“We need to know if those within the facilities have already been vaccinated or not. We will be the ones to reach out to them so we could vaccinate them if they are afraid to go outside,” she said.
Earlier, 50 staff and 64 nuns of the Religious of the Virgin Mary Convent in Cubao tested positive for COVID-19.
Thirteen nuns and nine staff members also tested positive at the Convent of Holy Spirit in Barangay Immaculate Conception.
Of the 22 Covid-19 patients, at least 14 were fully vaccinated, while the rest were unvaccinated.
Cruz said the convent has a population of 90 individuals, of which 46 were swabbed on Sept. 10, while the rest then refused to be tested.
“Per our agreement with them, they will take care of the testing of the remaining 44 individuals and they will send us the results as soon as they come out,” she said.
Swab results of the 46 showed that 25 tested negative, while 21 were positive.
One index case bringing to a total of 22 cases was a physical therapist, who was reportedly exposed to a nun who succumbed to the virus in early September.
Most of the COVID-19-positive nuns were 80 or older.
Cruz said the convent was put under the care of physicians from St. Luke’s Medical Center.