39 Heart Center docs, staff under quarantine for exposure to COVID-19 patient who died

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 13 2020 08:27 PM | Updated as of Mar 13 2020 10:38 PM

MANILA - Thirty-nine doctors, nurses and other staff of the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) in Quezon City were quarantined after being exposed to a patient who died due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Dr. Joel Abanilla, medical director of the Philippine Heart Center, said the medical staff went on isolation after attending to the patient, an 88-year-old Filipino woman from Pasig City.

"Lahat na nakontak niya (all who were in contact with the patient) from attending to nurses, to technicians, we now label them as PUI (patient under investigation). Some volunteered to have self-quarantine at home, and a lot of them are here in the hospital confined in a restricted area," he told radio DZMM Friday.

Abanilla said among those isolated were 7 doctors and 19 nurses, while the rest were technicians.

The hospital official said that as of now, the Philippine Heart Center does not have a shortage of medical staff despite the number of personnel in isolation.

"We have about 600 medical staff," he said.

The 88-year-old woman, identified as PH37 or the country's 37th COVID-19 case, was among the fatalities confirmed by the health department on Thursday. She passed away due to acute respiratory failure after contracting the new coronavirus.

It is not known how she acquired the disease as she has no travel history, based on data released by the DOH.

“PH37 was admitted on March 6 at the Philippine Heart Center, after experiencing onset of symptoms on February 28. PH37 was confirmed with COVID-19 on March 11 and was reported to have existing hypertension,” the DOH said earlier.

Abanilla said that as much as possible, the PHC will avoid accepting patients diagnosed with the coronavirus, explaining they have high-risk patients that cannot afford to be exposed to the disease.

"They will be referred to Lung Center [of the Philippines], San Lazaro [Hospital], or RITM [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine]," he said, adding the health department agreed to the hospital's policy.

The hospital will also decline patients with minor illness and are in stable condition.

The Philippines has reported more than 50 cases of COVID-19, 5 of whom died, including PH37. 

Metro Manila will be under "community quarantine" starting Sunday until April 14 due to the virus. Land, domestic sea or air travel to and from the capital region will not be allowed during the period, school suspension will be extended by a month, work in the executive branch will be canceled, while mass gatherings will be discouraged.