BY GERARD NAVAL
NOT only hospital beds are swiftly being filled with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients but also the government’s temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs), or quarantine and isolation facilities.
Department of Health (DOH) data released on Thursday showed that the country’s 14 Mega TTMFs are already in the “warning zone,” with a 58.1 percent bed occupancy rate, as of July 26.
The report said COVID-19 patients have occupied 1,525 beds out of the 2,623 total bed capacity of the 14 facilities.
Of the 14 Mega TTMFs, five have reached the “danger zone” or above 70 percent occupancy.
These are the Ultra stadium with 102 out of the 132 beds occupied (77%), Quezon Institute with 97 out of 112 beds occupied (86%), Rizal Memorial Coliseum with 92 out of 97 beds occupied (94%), Philippine Arena with 81 out of 92 beds occupied (88%), and ASEAN Convention Center with 111 out of 125 beds occupied (88%).
Another 7 Mega TTMFs have also reached the “warning zone,” or between 30 to 70 percent occupancy. These are the Ninoy Aquino Stadium with 76 out of the 112 beds occupied (67%), World Trade Center with 648 out of 988 beds occupied (65%), Philippine International Convention Center Forum with 110 out of 294 beds occupied (37%), Filinvest Tent with 48 out of 81 beds occupied (59%), Ligtas sa Las Pinas Quarantine Facility with 55 out of 100 beds occupied (55%), Alonte Sports Arena with 56 out of 136 beds occupied (41%), and IC3 COVID-19 Quarantine Facility with 45 out of 130 beds occupied (34%).
The last two Mega TTMFs, though, have managed to stay in the “safe zone” or under 30 percent occupancy. They are the BRP Ang Pangulo with 2 out of 24 beds occupied (8%), and New Clark City Athletes Village with 2 out of 200 beds occupied (1%).
The Mega TTMFs are managed by the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19. Under the guidelines, suspect and probable as well as mild and asymptomatic confirmed cases should be confined in TTMFs.
Last Tuesday, the DOH reported that, on the overall, COVID-19 dedicated beds in hospitals have already reached the “warning zone”.
Health Undersecretary and chief treatment czar Leopoldo Vega said only 16 percent of the 30 percent hospital bed allocation sought by the government had actually been allocated by the health institutions for COVID-19patients.
Vega, in a briefing with presidential spokesman Harry Roque, said both government and private hospitals should provide more beds and increase their current allocation to 50 percent in the event of a surge in infections.
Government hospitals are required to provide 30 percent of their bed capacity for COVID patients, while private hospitals are asked to provide 20 percent of their bed capacity.
He said recent reports claiming that hospitals had reached critical levels in hospital bed occupancy were based on their 20 to 30 percent allocation.
“Dapat buksan nila iyong mga beds nila to allocate more beds sa COVID para aabot sila sa 30 percent kasi ngayon ang average 16 percent lang eh tapos kapag hindi mo in-increase ang allocation for COVID, parang ang tingin puno na pero actually, kayang-kaya pa ng hospital na mag-convert ng kanilang wards into a COVID areas (They should open their beds to allocate more beds for COVID patients to reach 30 percent because the average now is 16 percent and if you do not increase the allocation for COVID, you would see it as almost full when in actuality, the hospitals can still convert their wards into a COVID areas),” Vega said.
Vega said the government would expedite efforts to provide hundreds more of hospital beds including intensive care unit (ICU) beds next month.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government had already started the expansion of bed capacity with the conversion of more wards into COVID beds in four government hospitals in Metro Manila.
Galvez said they target to open additional beds at the East Avenue Medical Center, Quirino Memorial Hospital, Quezon Institute and Philippine General Hospital in August.
Galvez said 50 ICU beds will be available at the Quirino Memorial Hospital, 250 ward beds at the East Avenue Medical Center, along with an emergency wing exclusively for COVID patients only.
Deputy Chef Implementer Vivencio Dizon said additional isolation facilities are also being constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, while some hotels and similar private establishments had also provided 2,700 beds to accommodate more COVID patients.
Dizon said 1,000 of the hotels rooms are already occupied by mild and asymptomatic patients. — With Jocelyn Montemayor