A photo of a red car parked outside a hospital is currently making the rounds of Facebook feeds. Right by its doors stands an oxygen tank and an IV (intravenous) pole with medications hanging from it. The two right side windows are very slightly open so that the tubes from the tank and IV bags can go through.
Inside the car was a 66-year old Covid patient, according Dr. Jamie Ysabel Amposta, who posted the photograph Sunday, April 4. Out of a desire to cater to patients who need urgent care, Dr. Jamie, an Emergency Room doctor in a private hospital in Dasmariñas, Cavite, has been treating patients inside their own car or in a wheelchair at the hospital’s parking area. This is due to the fact that there is currently no longer any space for the hospital to accommodate patients in their four tents or inside the ER.
“I never thought something like this can happen in my lifetime,” the doctor said, pouring out her frustration in her Facebook post. “I know this is not ideal at all, but this is the best we can do for our ailing patients.”
“Ang sakit nung doktor ka pero hindi ka makapanggamot kasi wala nang lugar, wala nang tao,” she tells ANCX, referring to the lack of hospital space and manpower to help her attend to patients. She only has two to three nurses helping her out at the ER and they’ve been seeing four to six Covid positive patients almost every day over the past three weeks.
The turnover time of Covid patients, according to Dr. Jamie, is “really slow and frustrating.” It usually takes about month for Covid patients to get discharged, so they cannot transfer the patients from the tents to the rooms right away. They only have four of those tents, which can only admit one patient each, or a maximum of two if patients are from the same household. One tent is reserved for patients that need to be resuscitated. The hospital’s Covid floor can only hold up to 7 or 8 patients, which are managed by one nurse and one nurse assistant.
The patient in the red car, Dr. Jamie tells ANCX, has already been transferred to a tent on her second day. There are still no available rooms in the hospital for her.
According to Dr. Jamie, who has been working at the hospital’s ER for six years, her nurses are kind of against her decision to accommodate patients at the parking area. “Pero we have to understand hindi lang naman Covid ang sakit,” she would explain to them. Instead of having to look for another hospital, some patients agree with the setup no matter how inconvenient it may be.
“Nakaka-bother sa akin bilang doctor na di ko ma-cater ang patient lalo na kung pwede ko naman siya ma-treat kahit sa ER lang—say, someone na nagtatae dahil may amoebiasis na pwede ko naman i-hydrate at bigyan ng meds after,” she shares. “On my end as a doctor, it’s frustrating kasi I can see as many patients as I can, but kulang ang nurses ko. Who will carry out my orders?”
Since the ER is full, the tendency is for nurses to turn away patients. What Dr. Jamie does sometimes is give her nurses extra money out of her own pocket as positive reinforcement. “Ang sahod [ng mga nurses] dito ay P20,000 lang then may P1,000 na hazard pay. So di ko po sila masisi at mapilit na tumanggap lang kami [ng pasyente],” the doctor laments.
But there would be times when the staff are left with no choice but to refuse patients. Dr. Jamie sent ANCX a blurred photo of vehicles carrying patients. “One [patient] was having a seizure,” she shares. “Unfortunately, we neither have tents anymore nor oxygen apparatus.” The relatives of the patient, out of frustration, yelled at the medical staff. The doctor took to Facebook to express her sentiments: “Don’t shout at us if we say we can’t accommodate you anymore because wala na talaga.”
Dr. Jamie says the situation has been like this for the past three weeks. So she’s thankful for patients who understand their situation. “Thank you po for your little treats just because we accommodated you kahit nasa parking lot and wheelchair lang kayo. You uplift us that way,” her message on Facebook reads.
“To my fellow doctors, I know may patients kayo na need i-admit, but this is the real situation—our nurses are also short-handed,” she adds. “To my nurses, you are doing a great job, but let’s also think about other sicknesses and let’s [try] to save others too. I know nakaka-drain na right? This pandemic has drained every bit of life out of us.”
“I’m lost for words as to how else I can deal with this and how my mental health can deal [with it] further but [with] prayers. I don’t want to be in this situation nor any of my loved ones. I’m just lost for words.”
The number of Covid cases in Cavite continues to rise. OCTA Research’s monitoring report shows that there are a total of 633 new Covid cases in Cavite Monday, April 5. Hospital and ICU beds for Covid are at 64% and 78% occupancy rate.
The ER doctor’s appeal to the government is to provide free RT-PCR tests so that hospitals like theirs can still cater to non-Covid patients and treat other diseases. “Hindi lang Covid ang sakit and yet before someone gets admitted in the hospital, they need the RT-PCR. It takes days before they get the results, and let’s not forget ang mahal. Even I don’t a get free RT-PCR,” says Dr. Jamie.