PGH eyes tapping interns, military doctors in COVID-19 fight

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2020 07:40 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2020 09:16 AM

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MANILA - The Philippine General Hospital is looking at tapping interns and military doctors as it gears up for becoming one of 3 centers specializing in cases of the novel coronavirus, its spokesperson said Thursday.

With classes suspended in the entire Luzon during its month-long lockdown, some medical interns volunteered to serve at the PGH, which would dedicate 130 beds to COVID-19 patients starting this weekend or on Monday "at the latest", said its spokesperson, Dr. Jonas Del Rosario.

PGH interns will not be deployed to the frontlines of the COVID-19 response and will instead assist senior doctors with their tasks, he said.
"Malaking tulong po sila kasi ifini-free up po nila iyong ibang doktor," he said in a DZMM interview.

(They're a big help because they are freeing up the other doctors.)

Half of PGH's doctors will focus on COVID-19 cases while the other half will take care of patients with other diseases, he said.

The COVID-19 doctors will be divided into 3 shifts and will undergo a 2-week quarantine if they are exposed to the virus.

The PGH is considering tapping military doctors if it runs out of staff due to the precautionary quarantine, said Del Rosario.

"Ang isa pa po naming napag-usapan kagabi... iyong command center ng PGH, maaari po sigurong kung sakaling kailangan pa e humingi ng tulong sa AFP, mga military doctors baka makatulong din kung talagang kakapusin," he said.

(One of the things we talked about last night at the PGH command center was that we might ask help from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, its military doctors if we run short of staff.)

The health department earlier said it would hire 120 doctors to help COVID-19 hospitals, but it was not immediately how many staff each would get, Del Rosario said.

Aside from the PGH, the health department said it was eyeing the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines as COVID-19 centers, after some private hospitals complained that the pandemic had already depleted their resources.

The PGH is still preparing "negative pressure" rooms that suck in contaminated air, additional ventilators to help COVID-19 patients breath, and full-body and water-proof protective suits for health workers, said Del Rosario.

The state-run hospital, he said, would only accept the following COVID-19 patients:

- those who tested positive for the pathogen and were referred by other hospitals;
- those with mild symptoms but are "high-risk", meaning they are senior citizens or have other health problems; and
- those who are not high-risk, but have moderate to severe symptoms.

"Otherwise, kung lahat po tatanggapin namin, baka po isa, 2 araw lang puno na," said PGH's spokesperson.

(If we accept everyone, we might be full in one or 2 days.)

The Philippines as of Wednesday confirmed 38 deaths and 26 patients who recovered out of its total 636 cases of the respiratory disease. The tally is expected to spike with the recent arrival of additional test kits, the health department earlier said.

The entire Luzon, home to around half of the Philippines' 100 million people, is under lockdown until April 12 to contain the pandemic.
Editor's Note: An initial version of this story erroneously identified Dr. Jonas Del Rosario as the PGH's medical director. We regret the error.