PGH limits non-COVID admissions due to rise in virus patients: spox

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2022 09:48 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2022 11:54 AM

The facade of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila on May 5, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
The facade of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila on May 5, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — The Philippine General Hospital is gradually limiting its admission of non-COVID patients, its spokesperson said Sunday as the hospital dealt with an increase in COVID-19 cases that is also affecting its manpower.

By limiting the number of non-COVID patients, PGH can reassign some of its health workers to COVID-19 operations, said Dr. Jonas del Rosario.

"Unti-unti na we're limiting our admissions of the non-COVID patients. In fact, mayroon na kaming directive na we will only take real emergencies," he told TeleRadyo.

(Gradually, we're limiting our admissions to the non-COVID patients. In fact, we already have a directive that we will only take real emergencies.)

"Tinigil muna po ang pag-admit sa mga elective cases para bumaba ang non-COVID [patients], and then now you can import or reassign some of the non-COVID personnel back to the COVID operations," he added.

(We suspended admitting elective cases to lower the number of non-COVID patients. And then now you can import or reassign some of the non-COVID personnel back to the COVID operations.)

Del Rosario said an estimate of 2,000 health workers are involved in PGH's COVID-19 operations, but 40 percent are either in isolation or under quarantine due to the respiratory illness.

Watch more News on iWantTFC

The hospital has allowed virus-exposed workers to skip quarantine if they are asymptomatic to be able to continue operating.

"Kung gagamitin natin 'yong conventional na recommendation na 10 to 14 days na quarantine, mauubos po talaga 'yong mga health care worker," he said.

(If we're goiing to follow the conventional recommendation of 10 to 14 days of quarantine, we will really run out of health care workers.)

"Kung hindi natin sila ika-quarantine lahat, mga 25 percent lang po [ng health workers] ang naka-isolate. So that's probably manageable," Del Rosario said.

(If we won't quarantine everyone, only around 25 percent of health workers will be isolated. So that's probably manageable.)

Alliance of Health Workers President Robert Mendoza said he is both saddened and angered by the shortened quarantine period for medical frontliners exposed to COVID-19.

Even if health workers are asymptomatic, they can still transmit the virus, Mendoza said.

"Possible nandiyan sa'yo 'yong virus. Puwede ka pang makahawa kasi hindi naman guarantee na 'pag asymptomatic ka, automatic 'di ka na makakahawa,' he said in a separate interview.

(It's possible that you have the virus, you can infect others because there's no guarantee that you're not infectious just because you're asymptomatic.)

Mendoza urged the Department of Health to resolve the problem of understaffing in hospitals and to give benefits to health workers who are unable to work after being sickened by the virus. 

Del Rosario said he understands the concerns surrounding the new policy but assured that the health workers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

He said the staff would also stop working once they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

The PGH currently has 300 COVID-19 beds with 251 admitted virus patients, but the number of beds will be adjusted as more cases come in, according to Del Rosario.

"Ang mangyayari eventually, we might have to convert the non-COVID beds to COVID beds kapag maraming pasyente," he said.

(What will happen eventually is that we might have to convert the non-COVID beds to COVID beds once more patients come in.)

On Saturday, the Philippines reported 26,458 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

The total COVID-19 cases in the country has reached 2,936,875, of which 102,017 are active infections, according to data from the health department.