Duque orders public hospitals to increase isolation bed capacity amid COVID-19 outbreak

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2020 12:51 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2020 01:17 PM

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MANILA - The country's top health official assured the public Tuesday that medical facilities are prepared with the proper equipment to manage the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on DZMM said there are currently 935 isolation beds in public hospitals but that more would be added with the new guidelines he released.

"Sa ating Universal Health Care law, 'yung 10 percent beds ng public hospitals ibibigay for private patients. Sinabi ko 'wag na natin 'yan gawin. 'Yung 10 percent na beds na 'yan gawin na nating isolation rooms para lumaki ang capacity natin. Ginawa na raw 'yan," he said.

(Under the Universal Health Care law, 10 percent of the beds in [state] hospitals are for private patients. I said let's not do that. The 10 percent of the beds should isolation rooms to increase the capacity. I was told that was already done.) 

Citing an app called Isolation Bed Tracker, the health chief said there are currently 390 isolation beds occupied, while 545 are still available.

As for mechanical ventilators, Duque said government has a total of 209 in state hospitals.

"Public lang ho ito. 'Yung private pinapahanda pa. Hopefully this afternoon maibigay sa atin yung imbentaryo for the private sector," he said.

(These are just in the public hospitals. Private hospitals have been told to prepare. Hopefully this afternoon we'll get the private sector inventory.)

The number of coronavirus infections in the Philippines is now at 142, with 12 deaths and 3 recovered cases. 

Duque said he would meet with officials of the DOH Health Facilities Enhancement Program to get an update on its preparedness.

The Philippines is currently under a state of public health emergency, with the response alert at Code Red, Sub-level 2 following "sustained community transmission" of the disease that originated from China.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night also upgraded the Metro Manila quarantine into a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine, suspending public transport and urging people to stay at home to further restrict movement of people in a bid to stop the contagion. 

COVID-19 cases have been reported in over 100 countries, infecting more than 160,000 people, with more than 6,000 deaths. The World Health Organization has described it a pandemic.

Duque, meanwhile, said there is a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as testing kits. He said government's supply orders have been coming in trickles, as manufacturers also did not expect the extent of the crisis. 

He added that the supply of PPEs and test kits were prioritized for countries that earlier reported a surge in COVID-19 infection.
 
"Tayo, isang buwan tayong hindi nakapagtala dahil nag total travel ban sa China, Hong Kong, Macau. Nagkaroon tayo ng isang buwan bago nakatuklas ng mga kaso ng community transmission," he said.

(We did not record a case for a month because of the total travel ban on China, Hong Kong, Macau. We had one month before community transmission was confirmed.)

A research center at the University of the Philippines-Manila developed a COVID-19 testing kit that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier approved, but Duque said it is still being tested.

"Ira-run lang 'yan parallel sa RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) para 'pag ang resulta parehong-pareho, mataas ang kumpiyansa, ang confidence level, na puwede nang iroll out," he said.

(That will be run parallel with the RITM, so that if the results from both match, there is high confidence level, then we can roll it out.)

He reminded the public that the use of rapid diagnostic kits is not that simple, unlike those used for pregnancy testing where one gets results instantly.

"Baka akala ng iba simple lang 'yung test kit. Bubuksan mo, lalagyan ng swab mo, tapos magbabago 'yung kulay, positive ka na. Hindi ganun 'yan, matrabaho ito," he said.

(Some people might think the test kit is simple. You open it, add a swab sample, the color will change, you're positive. But it's not like that, this takes work.)