MANILA — The Department of Health on Friday said it won’t be constructing new hospitals or structures but will instead rationalize the use of intensive care units as the Philippines continues to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Hindi tayo magpapatayo ng bagong ospital (We won’t build new hospitals),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a Malacañang briefing on Friday, the day it was announced that enhanced community quarantine in parts of the country will be extended until May 15.
“Ang gagawin natin, iaayos natin ang proseso. Maglalagay tayo ng dedicated rooms, dedicated wards para sa COVID,” she said when asked what the government will be doing during the extended ECQ.
(What we will do is that we’ll fix the process. We’ll add dedicated rooms, dedicated wards for COVID.)
Currently, the Philippines has 75 COVID-19 referral hospitals that have a total bed capacity of 3,194 as of mid-April.
The building of new structures for COVID-19 patients was practiced at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. The building of these large-scale temporary hospitals was among the recommendations of the Chinese experts who visited the Philippines earlier this month.
But the DOH said the Philippines “cannot build new structures” and will instead rationalize its processes to free-up hospitals for critically-ill patients.
Vergeire admitted on Friday that Metro Manila’s intensive care units are almost full as the number of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise, albeit slower than before.
“Makikita natin 'yung use of intensive care units sa NCR, nandun na s'ya sa near nung maximum. Ibig sabihin gamit na gamit na talaga,” she said.
(We can see that the intensive care units in NCR, their usage is already near the maximum. It means they are really being utilized.)
She said this is one of the reasons why the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 included NCR, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, in the list of high-risk areas that should have extended ECQ.
She said their worry is that hospitals in NCR would be overwhelmed as more cases are confirmed, based on the projections of experts.
By extending the ECQ, the government is hoping to continue to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and to buy enough time for health facilities to increase their capacity to take in patients.
Vergeire assured the public that the government continues to procure equipment such as ventilators.
The department has also requested funding for the emergency hiring of 15,000 health workers.
Vergeire said they are also working on increasing the testing capacity of the country to 8,000 to 11,000 tests daily.
“At meron tayong target sa sinasabi para ma-achieve natin at makita natin ang lahat ng dapat ma-detect in these 2 months ay yun pong 28,000 na tests,” she added.
(We also have a target of 28,000 tests so that we are able to detect enough in 2 months.)
The government has said Filipinos will have to adjust to the new normal and to practice minimum health standards such as physical distancing, proper hygiene, good nutrition and cough etiquette.
As of Thursday, there were 6,981 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of that number, 722 have recovered and 462 have died