MANILA (UPDATE)— The Department of Health on Friday said that some cities in Metro Manila are seeing more and more COVID-19 beds used up as infections continued to rise.
“Dito sa NCR napapansin natin 'yung talagang pag-increase in the number of utilization for COVID isolation beds and COVID wards. Umaabot na ho s'ya ng high-moderate risk,” said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega during a virtual briefing.
(Here in NCR we are noticing the increase in the number of utilization for COVID isolation beds and COVID wards. It has already reached high-moderate risk.)
Moderate risk refers to a utilization or occupancy rate of 60 to 70% while high risk is at 70 to 85%. Those with a utilization rate of more than 85% are already at critical level.
“Napapansin po namin lalo na dito sa areas ng Makati, Quezon City, Taguig at Manila ito 'yung matataas talaga ang admissions for COVID wards and beds,” he added.
(We noticed this especially in the areas of Makati, Quezon City, Taguig and Manila where there are high admissions for COVID wards and beds.)
Vega said that for the same areas, the utilization rate of intensive care unit (ICU) beds have also reached high to critical risk levels.
He pointed out that 53% or more than half of the new COVID-19 cases being logged in the country are from Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan.
For the whole country, the health care utilization rate is at low risk but has already reached 41%. For ICU beds specifically, the country average is “nearing the threshold of moderate risk,” the official said
Vega said one problem is that hospitals are still admitting mild cases, which is why admission rates rise. On the other hand, temporary treatment and monitoring facilities already have an occupancy rate of 78%.
He said among the recommendations they have made is to further increase bed allocation for COVID-19 patients from 30% to 50%. Some patients may also be transferred to lower level hospitals instead of staying in level 3 hospitals where severe and critical cases are a priority.
They are also looking for more isolation centers and isolation hotels for asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients.
Vega said that they are also going to continue building modular hospitals with the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Besides modular units already built at the East Avenue Medical Center and Quezon Institute in Quezon City, and at the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City, the DOH plans to add 350 to 380 more beds as the said hospitals are also seeing an increase in admission rates.
The Quezon Institute may be available for use by April 8, he said. Other modular hospitals will also be put up in Central Luzon and Calabarzon.
“The next would be in Batangas, that’s about 44 beds, and right now Tala (Jose Rodriguez Hospital) is now operating once they have adjusted the health personnel,” the official said.
He pointed out, however, that patients would need to be referred to other regions should the surge of new infections continue.
“The One Hospital Command in the other regions have also collaborated/coordinated with the private and public hospitals in Region 3 and 4 so that’s basically where we are going to push our patients, there is a lack of beds here in the NCR,” he said.
He said they are also augmenting the workforce of the hospitals and hired more than 2,000 health workers.
It may also be possible for hospitals to suspend admissions for non-COVID-19 patients following the instruction for the said health facilities to expand their COVID bed allocation.
“The physical space is really limited and the hospitals serve COVID and non-COVID. So, when you adjust the allocation for [COVID-19 patients] to say 50 percent, the trade off is you will be suspending admissions for non-COVID." he explained.
"But we hope this will be only for a limited time because otherwise it might also increase our mobility and mortality for non-COVIDs."
Since the start of March, there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. It has been attributed to non-compliance to health protocols although the presence of more transmissible variants is also said to be a factor.
The Philippines again on Friday recorded a new record-high daily new infections with 9,838 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the total number of cases to over 700,000.
Remaining active cases also stood at 109,018, also the highest since the pandemic began over a year ago.
- With a report from Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News