PGH confirms increase in coronavirus patients

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2020 02:04 PM | Updated as of Jun 15 2020 03:03 PM

MANILA — The head of the Philippine General Hospital, one of the country’s referral hospitals for COVID-19, confirmed Monday an increase in the PGH's number of coronavirus patient admissions, which he attributed to increased testing. 

In a statement, PGH chief Dr. Gap Legaspi confirmed a leaked memo that said several PGH wards are almost full of coronavirus patients. 

"From the onset, an increasing trend of admission was seen, peaking at 172 patients by end of April, and as the [modified enhanced community quarantine] was implemented, a downward trend was observed by mid-May. With an average in-patient census of 75/day being sustained over several days, we closed Ward 2 two weeks go," he said.

Legaspi explained PGH initially committed 130 beds for COVID-19 patients who were distributed to 11 areas in the hospital, including Wards 1, 2, 3 and 4. This allowed them to redistribute their personnel to tend to non-COVID patients.

"However, in the last few days, we experienced more patient admissions and less discharges. The buffer beds we would have wanted to maintain to make for a smooth transfer of patients from other hospitals were dwindling. Hence, the possibility of opening up Ward 2 again was brought up with the Advisory Board on June 14, 2020," he said.

The PGH chief attributed the increase in admissions to more people being tested. “And we are detecting more COVID positive patients in moderate and severe status,” he said.

He also pointed out that PGH received patients from Manila, which he said has the “highest number of active cases at 1,000+”, Parañaque, Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan and Las Piñas. 

The PGH also receives cases from the Bureau of Corrections and other quarantine facilities.

"PGH is also the only COVID referral center with a dedicated Pediatric and Obstetric COVID Service. Thus the increase could be because of the referral bias and may not be truly reflective of the situation in the rest of NCR or the country."

Legaspi confirmed that the hospital is “not yet at full occupancy,” especially since they prepared 200 beds or more than the 130 they committed at the start of the pandemic. 

“But wanting to be a step ahead, I asked our Department chairs to take preemptive measures to prepare for the consequences of any downscaling of a Community Quarantine status," he said. 

The PGH chief made the explanation following the leak of his memo on the hospital's situation on Viber and other online platforms. The message was supposedly attributed to 

"Wards 5th 1, 3,4 are almost full. We have 8 referrals from outside waiting to be admitted. We are trying to manage it without opening Ward 2 but if needed we have to. MICU SICU and CENICU also getting filled soon," the message read.

It also said it “could be the 2nd wave that we are anticipating” and that hospital staff will have to adjust and await for further instructions.

Legaspi confirmed that it was an internal memo that was "inadvertently shared."

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier denied that the PGH is running out of beds for patients despite the leaked PGH memo. 

"This was not really meant to be sent outside," she said during a Palace briefing.

"So ibig sabihin, 'yung kanilang sinasabi dun ito ay pagbibigay alam lang sa kanilang mga empleyado and they have still available units and beds para sa mga COVID patients natin,” she added. “He was pertaining to their preparation to opening a specific ward in their hospital. That’s why it was sent to all of their units,” the health official said.

(This means, what they were saying was just to inform employees. And they still have available units and beds for our COVID patients.)

Vergeire and Legaspi did not directly address the portion of the leaked message that referred to the 2nd wave of the outbreak. 

In the past days, the DOH has said that the COVID situation is continuing to improve. And while there seems to be an increase in “fresh cases,” Vergeire said the case doubling time and the critical care utilization rates of the country was still good. She previously said this meant that the health sector could still handle the pandemic. 

An expert said the Philippines can better assess if the number of COVID-19 cases spiked in the country, after Metro Manila transitioned to a general community quarantine, two weeks after the start of June. This coincides with the incubation time of the virus.