DOH: Healthcare capacity in 6 regions in ‘warning zone’

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    ASIDE from hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) which are already in the “danger zone,” medical facilities in six other regions in the country are seeing a sudden surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients and are now in the “warning zone,” just a shade below the “danger zone” or full capacity.

    In a televised press briefing, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there are other regions whose critical care resources, particularly isolation beds, are already above the 30 percent threshold.

    “The utilization rate of COVID-19 dedicated isolation beds for the whole country is at 45.7 percent (warning zone), and 73.7 percent (danger zone) for the NCR,” said Vergeire.

    “Also in the warning zone are those in Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4-A (CALABARZON), 7 (Central Visayas), 8 (Eastern Visayas), 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) and BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao),” she said.

    Data shows that the utilization rate of isolation beds are 43.2 percent for Central Luzon, 52.9 percent for Calabarzon, 60.2 percent for Central Visayas, 35.2 percent in Eastern Visayas, 33.4 percent in Zamboanga Peninsula, and 30.2 percent in BARMM.

    Similarly, the DOH also reported that the utilization rate of ward beds in four regions is also in the “warning zone.”

    “The utilization rate for COVID-19 ward beds is 51.9 percent (warning zone) for the whole country, and 77.4 percent (danger zone) for the NCR,” said Vergeire.

    “Also in the warning zone are those in Regions 4-A, 5, 7, and 11,” she added.

    Data shows that the utilization rate of ward beds are 67.8 percent for Calabarzon, 38.8 percent for Bicol Region, 67.6 percent in Central Visayas, and 53.7 percent in Davao Region.

    DOH Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega reported on Monday that many hospitals in Metro Manila are now at 70 percent capacity or are in the “danger zone.”

    This was coupled by the statements of the Makati Medical Center (MMC), St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC), The Medical City, and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) that they have already reached their full capacity in their COVID-19 critical care resources.

    Aside from the four medical facilities based in the NCR, the DOH reported that nine other hospitals have announced that they can no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients as their bed capacity is already full.

    “At present, nine hospitals already have full ICU, isolation, and ward beds,” said Vergeire.

    They are the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, FY Manalo Medical Foundation Inc., Bataan General Hospital and Medical Center, Qualimed Health Network Sta. Rosa, UPH-Dr. Jose G. Tamayo Medical University Foundation Inc., Tricity Medical Center Inc., Westlake Medical Center, Antipolo City Medical Hospital, and Ortigas Hospital and Healthcare Center Inc.

    With more hospitals utilizing their critical care resources, the DOH renewed its call for public and private hospitals to comply with the 30 percent bed allocation required by the national government.

    DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-0016 provides that “at least 30 percent of all public and private hospital beds must have the capacity to accommodate and service COVID-19 patients”.

    “We are appealing to all our hospitals, especially private hospitals, to convert 30 percent of their beds into COVID-19 dedicated hospital beds as prescribed by the Administrative Order,” said Vergeire.

    She noted how public hospitals across the country have presently allocated 20 percent of their beds, or 9,723 beds, for COVID-19 patients.

    On the other hand, she related that private hospitals have presently designated only 9 percent of their beds, or 5,222 beds, for COVID-19 patients.

    The 14,945 actual bed allocation is a far cry from the projected 32,252 COVID-19 designated beds if only the 30 percent bed allocation is being met.

    “If only everyone will follow the AO, we would have an additional 17,307 beds that can be used by COVID-19 patients,” said Vergeire.

    ISOLATION FACILITIES

    National Task Force on COVID-19 deputy implementer Vivencio Dizon said the government is looking at the construction of isolation facilities for patients severely or critically infected with COVID-19.

    Dizon, in an interview, said Public Works Secretary Mark Villar is now in discussions with the Department of Health (DOH) and several experts in planning the establishment of the new facilities.

    “Si Secretary Mark Villar, o ang ating isolation czar, sa kasalukuyan ay nakikipag-planning na sa ating Department of Health at sa ating mga ekperto para gumawa ng severe and critical COVID facilities sa labas ng mga ospital natin. Masalimuot ito dahil iba ang kailangang gawin kapag kritikal na ang inaalagaan natin (Secretary Mark Villar, or our isolation czar, is presently planning with the Department of Health and other experts for the construction of severe and critical COVID facilities outside the hospitals. This will be tedious because the needs of critical patients that would be cared for are different),” he said.

    DOH undersecretary Leopoldo Vega on Monday said ICU beds in hospitals are now at the “danger zone” level with 70 percent of already occupied.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the DOH is asking private hospitals to raise their allotted hospital and ICU beds for COVID patients to 50 percent from the current 30 percent if they are already occupied.

    He said only severe and critical patients need to stay at hospitals while mild and asymptomatic patients can stay at government isolation or quarantine facilities.

    Roque and Dizon clarified that mild and asymptomatic patients can still stay in their homes and complete their quarantine there if they have their own room, their own wash and comfort room, and there are no persons belonging to the vulnerable sector live with them.

    Dizon said the vulnerable sectors include the elders, minors, pregnant and those with health conditions like heart problems, asthma, liver problems, and kidney problems.

    He said if the three conditions are not met, the patients need to stay at government facilities under the “Oplan Kalinga” program. He said the patients would be provided accommodation, food and even free WiFi while they are cared for during their treatment.

    Dizon and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday bore the details of Oplan Kalinga program during the launch and inspection of a drive through swab testing facility launched in Taguig City. Results of the swab tests will be available within 24 hours.

    Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano said the city government is also constructing a 500-bed isolation facility to accommodate those who would test positive for COVID-19.

    ONE MILLION TESTED

    Dizon said additional facility is also in anticipation of the expected increase in positive cases with the government’s continued conduct of mass testing.

    He said the country achieved yesterday the one millionth COVID testing. The government targets to reach 10 million tests within the year. “As of today we hit one million. But still it’s not enough. It’s just a start,” he said.

    Dizon said the country still averages 25,000 tests a day which the government hopes to raise to 30,000 tests a day within the month.

    Roque said more tests can be conducted with the opening last week of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport molecular laboratory which can conduct 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day.

    The results of the swab test will be released after 24 hours. A similar molecular lab was also built in Los Banos in Laguna which was also opened recently. – With Jocelyn Montemayor