PGH sets up system for COVID-19 cases, vows to continue serving other patients

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 23 2020 07:47 PM

MANILA — The University of the Philippines’ Philippine General Hospital assured the public on Monday it will not close its doors on cancer patients and those with other ailments as it serves one of the country's COVID-19 referral centers.

“PGH won’t be exclusive for COVID-19. We have 400 patients but the numbers are dwindling because there is a lockdown,” said Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, PGH Director, in a televised briefing.

Legaspi said the hospital’s Cancer Institute will remain open.

“The Cancer Institute is still open. We will continue to do radiotherapy,” he said, explaining that they cannot turn away patients because many of them only get treatment through PGH funding.

Over the weekend, the PGH was announced as among the three referral hospitals for COVID-19 in the country, alongside the Jose M. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City and the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Legaspi said the PGH has already committed 130 beds for COVID-19 patients and is willing to add more depending on the need.

He said other DOH hospitals are also open to handling non-COVID-19 patients that PGH will not be able to accommodate.

“We are asking for a few days to prepare for this,” he said, adding that their preparation is magnified by 5 or 10 times to ensure that it will be enough.

“There are many challenges especially with PPEs (personal protective equipment) and how we will be able to address the shortage,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the Lung Center of the Philippines said it is about to run out of PPE suits. The DOH later announced guidelines on how hospitals can request for PPEs from them.

So far, there are around 100 patients under investigation (PUIs) from among the PGH's more than 4,000 personnel. PUIs refer to symptomatic patients who traveled to a country with local transmission or came into contact with a positive case.

None of them have tested positive for COVID-19.

Legaspi said that number is quite low because they were able to immediately enforce a personnel reduction scheme that lessens the exposure of the hospital employees.

Legaspi admitted PGH personnel fear they are not prepared to take on many COVID-19 cases. “That’s why we asked for time to prepare,” he said.

He said that in a meeting with other DOH and hospital officials, it was agreed that “one of the solutions to this complex problem was to organize the hospitals in a manner that will rationalize the clinical approach and the utilization of resources.”

He said both private and government hospitals tapped by the DOH “have committed financial, manpower, technical and technological assistance to the COVID-19 referral centers.”

“A scaling-up system of preparation was agreed upon so as not to severely hamper the COVID-19 Referral Centers’ services to their currently admitted patients,” Legaspi said.

At the start, PGH and other referral centers will only take in PUIs with mild symptoms who are at high risk. These are those who are 60 years old and above, and have pre-existing conditions. PUIs with moderate to critical conditions will also be admitted.

“Eventually, when testing for COVID-19 has been made readily available, only confirmed COVID-19 patients will be sent to the referral centers,” he said. At that time, PUIs with mild symptoms will have to undergo assessment at local health units.

The PGH has asked for a week to complete its management plan for its COVID-19 response.