Angeles mayor orders hospital closure for admitting coronavirus patient from QC
PAMPANGA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr ordered on Saturday night, March 28, the quarantine and closure of a private hospital in the city for bringing in a COVID-19 patient and 3 persons under investigation (PUIs) from Quezon City.
In a press release emailed to local media before Saturday midnight, Lazatin said the Philippine Rehabilitation Institute Medical Center (PRIMC) located along Arayat Boulevard in Barangay Pampang had violated its earlier agreement with the city government to admit only COVID-19 patients from Angeles City. (READ: Hospitals report 3 confirmed coronavirus cases in Clark Freeport, Angeles City)
The mayor said PRIMC admitted a COVID-19 patient and 3 PUIs from Quezon City on Friday, March 27 without informing the city government.
“PRI has put the entire Angeles City in danger. Pinalusutan nila tayo ng positive patient na hindi taga rito,” he said. (They snuck in a positive patient who's not from here.)
As soon as he learned about the admission of the patients in PRIMC on Saturday night, Lazatin ordered the deployment of policemen and barangay tanods “to secure PRI and ensure that no personnel or patient will be allowed to go out” of the private hospital.
“All people inside the PRI will be under quarantine,” the mayor said.
Lazatin also ordered the city government’s business permit and licensing division to immediately revoke the business permit of PRIMC.
“The city government will also prepare legal actions against PRI for putting the entire Angeles City in danger. Under my term, hindi na mabubuksan 'yang hospital na 'yan,” he said. (The hospital will not be able to reopen under my term.)
But the hospital that Lazatin wants to close is his city’s designated COVID center.
On Sunday night, Dr Pio Rafael Lim, PRIMC Assistant Hospital Administrator, said that Lazatin’s office met with all private hospitals in Angeles City and the Ospital Ning Angeles on March 19 in preparation for the COVID-19 outbreak that has already hit Metro Manila.
“Out of all private hospitals, only PRI Medical Center agreed to become the COVID Center which is congruent to sacrificing all its regular non-COVID operations, in order to prevent cross contamination,” Lim said.
Lim’s 2-page statement was posted on PRIMC’s official Facebook page.
Lim said that to turn away a patient would be in violation of directives from the Department of Health (DOH) and PhilHealth for all licensed hospitals with isolations rooms to attend to all patients, including those with suspected novel coronavirus.
“More importantly, it is also against the Hippocratic Oath which is the Universal Code of Ethics of physicians in treating the sick, regardless of race, religion, and ethnicity,” Lim said.
DILG steps in
On Monday, March 30, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año directed the “immediate reopening’ of the PRIMC. Lazatin has complied and PRIMC is again operational and accepting COVID-19 patients.
In a statement, Año said that Lazatin’s closure order on PRIMC was against Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which ensures that all COVID-19 patients, PUIs, and PUMs should be given “immediate and ample” healthcare.
“Access to health care is for everyone regardless of demography and identity. Local chief executives (LCEs) should not discriminate against non-residents in times of crisis in the same way that doctors have an oath to save lives,” Año said. On Tuesday, Año himself tested positive for the coronavirus disease. (READ: DILG Secretary Eduardo Año tests positive for coronavirus)
Año reminded all local chief executives “not to exceed their authority”, emphasizing that preventing hospitals from doing their jobs was tantamount to threatening the safety of patients and the general community.
LGU officials can be penalized under the Bayanihan Act if they disobey national government policies and directives meant to stem the coronavirus outbreak, added DILG spokesperson, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.
As the COVID Center for Angeles City, the hospital requested the mayor’s office for “full support in supplies, manpower, and funding," Lim said in his statement.
Lim said the “PRI Medical Center got 1 gallon of alcohol and one infrared scanner from the Local Government Unit.” Nonetheless, the hospital purchased everything that was needed, including heavy duty PPEs, to turn the hospital into a fully functioning COVID center. It hired additional health care salaries and gave competitive compensation packages.
Patients in isolation tent
Lim also gave a detailed narration of what transpired on Friday afternoon, March 27, where 4 patients from Quezon City arrived at the PRIMC’s emergency room in their own vehicle. They had seen the announcement on the Angeles City information office Facebook page that PRIMC was a designated referral hospital.
Lim said the patients include a 66-year-old male cardiologist who had fever for a week and had difficulty breathing, his wife who was suffering from fever for 3 days and shortness of breath, their nephew, and their driver who were both suffering from fever and cough. The 4 were taken into an isolation tent within the hospital’s premises.
He said the PRIMC immediately informed the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) in compliance with the DOH guidelines.
Lim also disclosed that around 11pm on March 28, the PRIMC received another patient, a 60-year-old seaman from Barangay Tabun, Angeles City, who was brought by an ambulance of the Rafael Lazatin Memorial Center, formerly known as the Ospital Ning Angeles.
“In a few minutes, his son arrived stating that they were already admitted at the ward of Ospital Ning Angeles without proper isolation protocols, as a patient with diagnosis of possible PUI. His father, who already had altered level of consciousness and difficulty of breathing, was transferred to PRI Medical Center without his consent,” Lim said.
Lim assured Angeles City residents that PRIMC has taken proper security and safety measures.
“We assure the public that we are on top of the situation and we would never make rash decisions that would endanger not only your lives, but also the lives of our medical personnel and front liners,” Lim said.
In his statement, Lazatin ordered the police to strictly implement the enhanced community quarantine in the city. (READ: Angeles City imposes 10-hour curfew to minors)
“Wala na pong makakapasok sa siyudad ng Angeles maliban na lamang sa pagkain, medical emergency na hindi connected sa COVID-19 at 'yung iilang nakasaad sa direktiba ng DILG,” he said. (Nothing will be able to enter Angeles City except for food, non-COVID-19 medical emergencies, and exceptions provided for by DILG directives.) – Rappler.com