MMC to beef up telemedicine, vaccination as long-term COVID-19 response

Angela Coloma, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 23 2021 05:56 PM

MMC to beef up telemedicine, vaccination as long-term COVID-19 response 1
Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA— The Makati Medical Center (MMC) is planning to further beef up its medical treatment platforms and set up other programs on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination and response as part of its long-term plan amid the persistent pandemic. 

In a virtual press briefing, MMC Medical Director Dr. Saturnino Javier said the hospital will mount a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination facility in its parking lot in the coming months to augment the government's inoculation campaign to achieve herd immunity before the end of the year. 

Javier said they plan to procure their own COVID-19 vaccines and charge these at cost to patients who would avail of the drive-thru service.

"Once we’ve been able to procure, Moderna for example, for a fee that will apply for certain individuals but this will have to be regulated in accordance to the provisions of national government. Details will come as we seek to cascade it but everything will still be on line," Javier said. 

MMC President and CEO Pilar Nenuca Almira said they would not be charging patients for vaccines procured by the government or thru the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

"We are not to make money from the help to vaccinate more people. Whatever is the price by which we are acquiring the vaccine, that is the price that we will be passing on to the patient or to the citizens. It's just for cost-recovery purposes of immunizing [those vaccinated]," Almira said. 

Almira said they are continuously installing facilities which will support teleconsultation programs being offered for overwhelmed medical workers, and non-COVID-19 patients who are hesitant to set foot in the hospital during the pandemic. 

MMC is among private hospitals in Metro Manila that had declared full capacity for COVID-19 patients amid the surge in infections earlier this year and the peak last year. 

"Since the start of the pandemic, our doctors have been very innovative. They have obtained the platforms that have suited their interest and also their comfort so they have been using telemedicine on their own and the hospital has installed their teleconsult and telemedicine facility as other options for doctors to use. So our IT has been active in supporting our doctors in this area," Almira said.

MMC is also planning to introduce off-site transplantation facilities, according to Almira, for the convenience of patients in need of transplants but cannot go to the hospital. 

"Transplantation has very delicate procedures. We will expand our operations we will have off-site facilities saying if the patients cannot come, [we will come] closer to patients. We will also beef up our partnerships with various hospitals," Almira said, adding that they are partnering with other medical facilities locally and internationally to further improve their COVID-19 response. 

CHALLENGES AND CURRENT PRACTICES 

For Javier, their present and future practices are anchored on the experience with COVID-19 surges, particularly in the rise in infections between April and May 2021. 

He said the hospital then was like a "war zone" with the volume of patients. 

With emerging variants, particularly on the highly transmissible Delta variant first detected in India, Javier said they would bank on previous experience with the pandemic to respond to future surges. 

"As I have said heightened readiness and sustained preparedness. ‘Yung lahat ng natutunan namin (what we have learned) from previous surges this will form the arsenal of how we will respond to the surge again. We will just draw on our prepared contingency of our responses," Javier said, reiterating that they have been handling the pandemic situation well. 

After the surge between April and May of this year, MMC has had close to 95,000 suspected COVID-19 cases, of which 14,241 were confirmed positive for the disease. They also have a 1.9 percent fatality rate, which Javier said was a low figure. 

During the time, however, they faced challenges such as manpower ability, and bed allocations for COVID-19 patients, which they had resolved through ramping up personnel hiring, adding more beds and converting some of their facilities in such a way that would allow them to cater to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients "equally." 

Other interventions include providing packaged programs to COVID-19 patients who have been affected by "long" COVID-19 symptoms, and allotting a space in their facility for drive-thru COVID-19 swab testing. 

"Makati Med has given equal attention [to non-COVID patients] the past 16 to 17 months. And that is the reason why we have zoning, even dedicated elevators for non-COVID patients. We don’t want the non-COVID patients to be sidelined indefinitely," Javier said. 

It has also continuously provided mechanisms for their staff to cope with the pandemic, including teleconsultation, free transportation, and meals, among others to keep them going amid the surge in patients. 

Meanwhile, around 98 percent of the MMC staff have been vaccinated against COVID-19, with the remaining 2 percent staying unvaccinated for reasons of brand preference, being diagnosed with COVID-19, and allergic reactions to the available brands. 

Almira also noted a challenge in receiving claims from PhilHealth as the state medical insurer was hounded with controversies over the course of the pandemic. 

"It is a challenge. Collection is really a challenge. PhilHealth has been delayed and this has been going on especially with the controversy and leadership in PhilHealth was somehow shuffled," Almira said. 

She said PhilHealth had manpower difficulties as well and that the state medical insurer was trying to pay its dues but "not the way they have committed." 

MMC and other hospitals are, however, looking forward to this being fixed in the future, Almira said. 

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