THE National Capital Region (NCR) and six other regions in the country are currently seeing a rise in the number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients occupying hospital beds, including those for intensive care units (ICUs).
In a virtual press briefing, DOH – Epidemiology Bureau (EB) Director Dr. Alethea de Guzman said they have seen an increase in healthcare utilization rates (HCUR) in Metro Manila and six regions in Luzon and Visayas since February 17.
“NCR showed the highest increase in utilization at 21 percent,” De Guzman said.
Other regions seeing increase in HCUR are Calabarzon (19%), Cagayan Valley (17%), Cordillera Administrative Region (15%), Central Luzon (14%), Mimaropa (4%), and Western Visayas (2%).
But while several regions are increasing HCURs, the health official pointed out that the whole country is still within the “safe zone” in terms of hospital bed occupancy.
As of March 18, the whole Philippines has an HCUR of only 39 percent, De Guzman said.
“Our HCURs are all in the safe zone. This is vital, especially since the HCUR in the regions can serve as buffer as we are seeing a rise in cases in the NCR,” she added.
Having the highest hospital bed occupancy in the country is the Cordillera Administrative Region with 56 percent, followed by NCR with 55 percent. Also having high rates are Cagayan Valley with 53 percent, and Calabarzon with 50 percent.
De Guzman said there is a need to closely monitor the ICU bed occupancy rate in hospitals because “ICU rate has to be measured as it may indicate our capacity to manage severe/critical disease and minimize preventable deaths.”
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it is important for the government to take action in preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed.
She said all healthcare facilities must take steps to further decongest their COVID-19 beds by transferring some patients to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs).
“One of the strategies will be for us to identify facilities where we can transfer asymptomatic and mild patients,” said Vergeire.
“Almost 50 percent of those admitted in hospitals now are mild and asymptomatic patients,” she added.
Another measure, she said, is to continuously expand COVID-19 bed capacities to 50 percent for public hospitals and to 30 percent for private hospitals.
And in order to allow hospitals to expand their capacities, Vergeire said the DOH is already conducting an assessment of the healthcare worker shortages in different medical facilities, both public and private.
“The One Hospital Command is already conducting an audit of different hospitals that are needing additional workforce,” said Vergeire.
The DOH official said such actions are similar to the one they did back in July and August 2020, when they resorted to emergency hiring of human resources for health.
“We actually did not stop that. It was a continuing effort to hire healthcare workers as they are needed especially at this time,” said Vergeire.
DOH data shows that as of March 22, there are already 15,531 health care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19. Of these, 15,034 (96.8%) have recovered; 82 (0.5%) have died; and 415 (2.6%) are still active cases.
In Pateros, municipal mayor Ike Ponce led the opening of a new isolation facility that will cater to COVID-19 patients. The facility has 66 beds with good ventilation and air-conditioned rooms with their respective comfort rooms, hospital beds, table, chair, and hygiene kits.
The isolation facility is made of 34 units of 20-footer shipping container and was set up inside the covered gymnasium of the Pateros Elementary School.
As of Wednesday, Pateros has 27 new active cases of COVID-19, bringing its total cases to 168.
Ponce said the current 55-bed isolation facility has already reached critical level.
On the other hand, the city government of Pasay yesterday transferred 264 COVID-19 patients to the isolation facilities of Oplan Kalinga to address the shortage of beds in its hospitals and facilities.
In a Viber message, Pasay City Public Information Office (PIO) chief Jun Burgos said the patients were endorsed to Oplan Kalinga, which is managed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
The patients, according to Burgos, were transferred to the Nayong Pilipino in Parañaque (20), at the Go Hotel in Mandaluyong (20), NICE Hotel in Mandaluyong (25), NICE Hotel at North EDSA (25), Manila Prince Hotel (20), Filinvest Alabang isolation facility (22), Calamba TTMF (28), Canyon Woods Hotel (39), and Chateau Royale Hotel (65).
There are still 121 barangays in Pasay City which are under granular lockdown. – With Noel Talacay