MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has not yet lost its battle against COVID-19 despite the surge in cases and near-critical hospital capacity especially in Metro Manila, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday.
“Hindi naman talaga tayo talo, the health system is not collapsing. It’s just that we’re trying to manage the challenge of the surge,” Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said during the Laging Handa public briefing.
Vega issued the statement in response to the remark of the Philippine Hospital Association that hospitals are already “overwhelmed and overrun” in view of the uptick in COVID-19 cases due to their depleted resources and lack in manpower.
Several hospitals in Quezon City, Makati, Taguig, and Navotas have earlier reported high critical situation in the use of their intensive care units (ICU).
Other hospitals in Metro Manila have also reached moderate risk situation in terms of their bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.
The severity of the situation and overworked hospital staff have prompted the Philippine Hospital Association to say that the country has already lost in the fight against the pandemic.
But Vega said the country’s health system is not yet collapsing amid the alarming rise in coronavirus cases.
In response to the situation, he said hospitals are already re-allocating their beds to accommodate more COVID-19 patients.
More healthcare workers from provinces with low COVID-19 incidence have also been deployed in the NCR Plus bubble.
Medical adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 Dr. Ted Herbosa also does not subscribe to the notion that the country has lost the fight as hospitals still continue to manage patients and have not shut their doors.
“Hindi naman, kasi gumagana pa ang mga ospital. When you say collapsed, ang tawag namin diyan sa disaster medicine ay ‘functional collapse’ — hindi na magamot ang mga tao, mamamatay na yung di dapat mamatay,” he said.
He, however, admitted that many hospitals in Metro Manila are experiencing overcrowding of COVID-19 patients and this is the reason why some patients are being sent for admission in hospitals outside the NCR Plus bubble.
“So as of now, ang nangyayari is we are at a period of surge capacity, over capacity yung ating health system,” he said.
Metro Manila and four nearby provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – collectively called as NCR Plus bubble – have been placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in a bid to arrest the surge in COVID-19 cases.
The ECQ period is from March 29 to April 4.
The DOH earlier recommended a one-week extension of the ECQ to see a decline in the number of cases and its effect on the healthcare utilization rate.
The Inter-Agency Task Force is set to meet on Saturday to discuss the proposal. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)