MANILA — The Philippines' COVID-19 treatment "czar" said on Thursday the decreasing healthcare capacity of Metro Manila was "alarming," as the country battles a surge in coronavirus infections.
Health Undersecretary Leopold Vega, who is head of the One Hospital Command, said the about 54 percent of isolation beds and 64 percent of ICU beds in the region are currently occupied.
"Sa mga certain areas ho like Manila, Makati and Taguig, iyong mga level 3 hospitals, iyong mga malalaking hospitals, both public and private, ito iyong nakaka-experience ng ano na nasa high-risk category—between moderate and high risk," he said in a televised press briefing.
(In certain areas like Manila, Makati and Taguig, the level 3 hospitals, the big hospitals, both public and private are experiencing the high-risk category—between moderate and high risk.)
Hospitals are classified under moderate risk if 60 to 79 percent of its COVID-19 beds are occupied, and as high risk if 70 to 80 percent of COVID-19 beds are in use, according to the health department's website.
The public "can only relax" if the healthcare utilization rate is below 30 percent, said Vega.
"This is already 60 percent, so alarming," he said of Metro Manila's ICU bed utilization. "We need to do something. We need to do the appropriate response in terms of capacitating iyong mga hospitals, both public and private," he said.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, "I would say na it is a bit of a reason to be alarmed."
"Pero sa akin po, given that the people I think are now mobilizing themselves and concentrating on lowering the numbers, tingnan po natin kung anong magiging resulta ng concerted effort ng sambayanan," he said in the same briefing.
(But I think, given that the people I think are now mobilizing themselves and concentrating on lowering the numbers, let us see what the concerted effort of the nation would be.)
The healthcare utilization rate is one basis for tightening the quarantine of an area, said Roque.
But if Metro Manila's healthcare utilization rate continues to increase, hospitals in nearby regions can be tapped, he said.
Vega said officials are working to increase modular hospitals and implement localized lockdowns, while heath workers are now more knowledgable in treating COVID patients and are starting to get vaccinated.
"Compared with last year, we're better off, we're better prepared and we can keep on improving and adjusting to the changing times," he said.