MANILA - A number of Philippine hospitals on Thursday reached out to government for help as the country tries to fight the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Eleven hospitals and medical centers said in an "urgent appeal" that an "alarming number" of their personnel were under the 14-day mandatory quarantine for individuals exposed to COVID-19 patients, as persons under investigation (PUIs) "continue to flock" to their emergency rooms every day.
According to the group, most of their "regular rooms have been turned into COVID-19 isolation areas", leaving less for non- coronavirus patients who also have life-threatening conditions.
"The panic is escalating, mortality is increasing, our supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are running short, our frontline staff are increasingly getting depleted as more of them are quarantined or physically and emotiional exhausted, and a number of our medical colleagues are already hooked to respirators fighting for their lives in various ICUs (intensive care units)," the group said in a joint statement.
"Even our ICUs are getting full. Soon we will have a shortage of respirators. We have every reason to be scared; we are, indeed very scared because we feel that we are on our own to face our countrymen in dire need of help.
"We speak, as one, because the mismatch between the exponential surge of patients and the available healthcare workers is no longer occurring in just one center, but in all respective institutions," the group added.
"We cannot share resources we no longer have."
The Philippines, as of Thursday, had 217 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, 17 of whom have died. Eight patients have recovered, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
Despite the number of DOH-confirmed cases that is comparably lower to other countries' infections, the group said they are dealing with COVID-19 patients with "increasing mortality", which in turn exposes their attending medical staff to more danger than usual.
In order to effectively contain the coronavirus and protect medical staff at the same time, the group suggested the DOH should "centralize all efforts and resources" against the disease in one or two designated hospitals. These will be responsible for receiving, screening and treating PUIs and coronavirus patients, when the allowable number of COVID-19 cases per hospital exceeds in a health institution.
"We are aware that there is a plan to do this; we are urgently appealing for the DOH to mobilize this plan, challenging as it may be, but which the private hospitals are willing and ready to facilitate," the group said.
With these designated hospitals in place, the group said other health institutions can focus on patients with other ailments but are also at risk.
"They (other patients) are the ones we need to equally protect and secure from the virus, so that they and their families can also be assured of appropriate treatment detached from any threat of COVID-19 infection aggravating their condition," they said.
The group urged the DOH to act swiftly as there is "no time for indecision."
"If we do not put our act together, the prospect of the healthcare delivery systems crashing down is imminent and real. It is already happening."
The group's statement was signed by the hospitals' medical directors.
According to ABS-CBN's analytics head Edson Guido, the group was treating 106 COVID-19 patients, or nearly half of the Philippines' confirmed cases, as of March 19.
The group is comprised of Adventist Medical Center (1 case), Asian Hospital Medical Center (5 cases), Cardinal Santos Medical Center (12 case), Fatima University Medical Center (1 case), Makati Medical Center (13 cases), Manila Doctors Hospital (5 cases), Medical Center Manila (1 case), Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (2 cases), The Medical City - Ortigas (30 cases), St. Luke's Medical Center - Quezon City (17 cases), St. Luke's Medical Center - Global City (16 cases), and University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center (3 cases).