THE National Task Force against COVID-19 is proposing the designation of hospitals, especially in Metro Manila, as exclusive facilities for patients with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The recommendation was made by NTF chief Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday night during a meeting with President Duterte.
Galvez said the move aims to make sure patients suffering from other ailments, like those undergoing dialysis or chemotherapy, would not suffer.
“We will be recommending na kung magkaroon po na tayo ng zoning sa NCR [National Capital Region], mayroon po dapat tayo na apat na COVID hospitals para iyon dedicated na hospitals (We will be recommending that if we will have zoning in NCR, we should have four COVID hospitals that are dedicated hospitals),” he said.
Under the second phase of the National Action Plan on COVID-19, local government units are allowed to implement zonal or localized lockdown on a specific area depending on the coronavirus infection and case doubling rates.
Under the zoning concept, the affected areas are identified as critical, containment, and buffer zones, or outside the buffer zone.
Galvez said it will be similar to what China did when it built the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan that was dedicated to COVID cases.
The government has not named hospitals that will exclusively attend to COVID-19 patients but there are referral hospitals for the coronavirus patients, like the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.
Galvez also said the country needs at least 1,000 more intensive care beds along with additional isolation beds, especially in Metro Manila, due to the rising number of coronavirus patients.
He said during recent inspections that he and some health officials did in Metro Manila, they found that the Quirino Memorial Hospital had extended its emergency ward to accommodate 50 additional ICU beds while the East Avenue Medical Center had 25 ICU beds.
The Department of Health and several private hospitals have warned that the hospital beds, especially the ICU and isolation beds, dedicated for COVID-19 patients are now at the danger level after being used up due to the rising number of coronavirus patients. Severe and critical COVID-19 patients stay in hospitals while mild and asymptomatic patients stay at isolation and quarantine facilities built or converted by the government.
RAMP UP THE TESTING
The planned exclusive hospitals would complement the government’s ramping up of COVID-19 testing as it aims to test 10 million Filipinos by 2021.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the country cannot test all Filipinos and targets only 10 percent of the population under the government’s expanded testing, tracing and treatment efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19.
“Magiging mga 10 percent po tayo of the total population of the Philippines at 109 million.
We might be able to reach about 10 million Filipinos by 2021 (We can test 10 percent of the total population of the Philippines at 109 million. We might be able to reach about 10 million Filipinos by 2021),” he said adding that to date the country had already tested 1,120,000 people.
He said the actual daily test being done is 25,000 a day but the government hopes to raise the actual test to 32,000 to 40,000 a day.
Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said clinical trials for the plant lagundi (Vitex negundo), as a supplemental treatment for individuals infected with COVID-19, will start on August 1.
De la Peña said the University of the Philippines Research Ethics Board has already approved the trials but the government is still waiting for clearance from the Food and Drug Administration’s clearance.
DOST has been studying the effects of several herbal medicines — such as lagundi and tawa-tawa — against COVID-19 since April.
De la Peña said the trials are part of the ongoing research to determine if the herbal medicines would help improve or worsen the condition of COVID-19 patients.
THE Department of Health said “minor deficiencies” found in the initial version of locally-made test kits for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) delayed its availability.
The DOH’s explanation comes amid allegations of Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III prefers China-made test kits over local ones made by UP-NIH.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a TV interview, noted the GenAmplify (Version 1) developed by the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health (UP-NIH) was approved in April.
The following month, Vergeire announced the recall of the test kits after the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) saw minor defects due to the presence of contaminated reagents that may have resulted in 30 percent of its samples yielding “indeterminate” results.
On Sunday, the DOH announced that the “GenAmplify version 2, the country’s very own RT-PCR test kit, is finally ready for commercial use.”
In the TV interview yesterday, Vergeire said, “We started validating it as early as April. But in that first validation, we found a few deficiencies so it needed to be replaced.”
She said it was only last May when the manufacturer, Manila Health Tek, submitted the second version of the local testing kit.
And as the process dictates, GenAmplify (Version 2) underwent another validation proceedings at the RITM.
“It has now been given certification by the Food and Drug Administration, and can now be used commercially,” she said. — With Gerard Naval