DOH to add more hotlines as calls swamp One Hospital Command amid COVID surge

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2021 01:48 PM

Video courtesy of the Department of Health

MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday said its One Hospital Command hotline has been overwhelmed with calls due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, especially in Metro Manila.

“We are swamped with many calls and we don’t have the technology of call forwarding,” said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega during a virtual briefing.

Vega, also the designated treatment czar for COVID-19, said the command center receives about 280 to 300 calls per day. Before the surge this month, the command center was receiving 66 calls per day, he said. 
Some have already complained that their calls are not being answered by the hotline. But Vega said, “Even when it keeps on ringing it only means the cellphone they are calling is actually engaging with a patient because it takes time actually to provide medical direction.”

He said that they are already trying to improve the service by adding more lines and by connecting the DOH COVID hotline 1555 to their call center. He said this would address call queueing, which makes callers think the hotline is not working. 

The One Hospital Command was set up last year amid a surge in COVID cases. It was meant to facilitate the transfer of patients in hospitals as many were being turned down by facilities that were already full. But until now, there are still reports of patients not being accommodated or assisted by hospitals.

The DOH said then that hospitals should be the ones coordinating the transfer of patients in case their beds or emergency rooms are full. 

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As of Thursday, the Philippines has recorded 693,048 total COVID-19 cases in the country with 99,891 active cases, and new daily record highs have been seen in recent weeks. 

The surge in cases was detected at the start of the month and has been attributed to poor compliance with health protocols, though health officials and medical experts said the presence of more transmissible variants may also be a factor.

Vega said that while health care utilization in the country is still at low risk, it’s already at 41%, and there is an increase in utilization of isolation beds and COVID wards in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic.