'Para na itong Yolanda': Doctor compares COVID-19 pandemic to 1-yr super typhoon

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 11 2021 09:45 AM | Updated as of Apr 11 2021 10:16 AM

'Para na itong Yolanda': Doctor compares COVID-19 pandemic to 1-yr super typhoon 1
Residents line up to claim their Social Amelioration Program (SAP) cash assistance at the Barangay Hagdan Bato Itaas multi-purpose hall in Mandaluyong City on April 08, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The country's healthcare system is not yet ready for NCR Plus to ease its quarantine level, medical frontliners said Sunday.

Malacañang earlier said government was considering easing the bubble of virus epicenter Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal into modified enhanced community quarantine after 2 weeks of strict lockdown.

The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 calls for "long term solutions" such as coordinated digital contact tracing, said member Aileen Espina, who is also national director of the Philippine Academy of Family Physicians.

"It’s not a question of kakayanin, kahit naman 'yung nakaraang 2 linggo, we were nearing collapse of our healthcare system. Para na itong naging Yolanda sa tindi. This is beyond the capacity of healthcare system to respond to the current situation," she told ABS-CBN News.

(It’s not a question of whether we can do it, the past 2 weeks, we were nearing collapse of our healthcare system. It's like Typhoon Yolanda.)

"At least 'yung Yolanda noon sa'min sa Tacloban after 5 hours tapos na siya, ito 1 taon na paulit-ulit na...bababa 'yung kaso, magrerelax tayo hindi natin inaayos yung root cause ng pagdami ng kaso."

(At least Yolanda was done after 5 hours, this has been ongoing for a year...cases will decrease then we will relax without identifying the root cause of increase in infections.)

The country's contact tracing applications are like an "archipelago," Espina said.

"Sana magkaroon ng tulay (I hope there can be a bridge)... a way to bridge these islands of information systems," she said.

"The earlier we’re able to identify 'yung mga kaso at ma-isolate sila, ma-identify sino ang close contact nila at ma-quarantine natin kaagad, (we) are able to cut the chain of transmission.)

(The earlier we’re able to identify the cases and isolate them, identify their close contacts and quarantine them, (we) are able to cut the chain of transmission.)

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Philippine General Hospital spokesperson Jonas del Rosario also said the country's healthcare system does not yet have the capacity to handle COVID cases if the quarantine level of NCR Plus is eased.

The country's largest COVID-19 referral hospital has 244 virus patients out of its 255 beds or at 94 percent capacity as of Saturday, Del Rosario said.

"Ang aming ICU (intensive care unit) ay puno, maraming nasa waitlist at hirap ang mga tao makapasok sa ospital," he said.

(Our ICU is full, many are on the waitlist and are having trouble getting admitted.)

"I think hindi pa kaya, kung babasehan natin ang healthcare capacity. Dahil ung magluwag maaaring ma-overwhelm pa lalo."

The hospital has closed 2 non-COVID wards to get more health workers, Del Rosario added.

"'Di naman pwede isang nurse, 10 pasyenteng severe. Habang mas bumibigat ang sitwasyon nila, mas kailangan tutukan kaya mas maraming tao ang kailangan," he said.

(One nurse cannot take care of 10 severe patients. As their situation worsens, we need to monitor them closely so we need more staff.)

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