hospitals in the Philippines

After lockdown, PGH’s COVID-19 beds still over 90% occupied

Bonz Magsambol

STATE HOSPITAL. The facade of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila

Rappler file photo

'Unfortunately, the numbers have not changed yet in PGH,' says hospital spokesman Jonas del Rosario, referring to the occupancy of dedicated beds for COVID-19 at the Philippine General Hospital

Weeks after Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed under the strictest level of quarantine classification, over 90% of the COVID-19 beds at the Philippine General Hospital remained occupied, PGH spokesman Jonas del Rosario said on Tuesday, May 4.

Del Rosario said In an interview with DZMM’s Teleradyo that 234 out of the 250 dedicated beds for COVID-19 at the PGH are occupied.

“Unfortunately, the numbers have not changed yet in PGH – 234 out of the 250 beds are still occupied by COVID-19 patients so that’s more than 90% occupancy,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Del Rosario said that PGH’s intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency room are still full.

Local health officials pay close attention to ICU capacity as it indicates the number of people afflicted with severe COVID-19. It also measures the health system’s capacity to manage critically ill patients and prevent deaths. 

Extend MECQ?

For Del Rosario, it would be better to extend the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the “NCR Plus” bubble – Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal – on the basis of the hospital occupancy rate.

However, he said that they would continue to monitor the situation until the middle of the month to see if the figures would change.

“Our admissions are very fluid. We were trending down already, 216 out of the 250 beds. But in the past three days, it went up. We were surprised that it went up to 234 again,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“Sa aming charity wards, halos 80 patients po ang naghihintay para matanggap sa aming hospital sa charity. Punuan ‘yung charity beds namin. Isa kasing nagiging limitation ay ‘yung oxygen ports,” Del Rosario added.

(Almost 80 patients are still waiting to be admitted in our charity wards. Our charity beds are all occupied. One of the limitations is the oxygen ports.)

The government has placed “NCR Plus” under MECQ until May 14 to further decongest hospitals and curb virus transmission.

Decline in cases ‘not significant’ yet

In a press briefing on Monday, May 3, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that while the Department of Health (DOH) saw a decline in COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, this was “not significant.”

Citing the situation in Metro Manila, Vergeire said that the DOH observed an improvement in the capital region’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) – the number of new cases in a city or province over a two-week period – to 25 cases per 100,000 population, from 43 cases. 

“While this is an improvement, this is still beyond the 7 per 100,000 threshold that we have set for high-risk classification. This ADAR can still overwhelm the healthcare system if we cannot improve our response,” she said. 

On April 26, the Philippines reached a grim milestone of 1 million COVID-19 cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic. Since early March, the country had also witnessed a record-breaking surge in infections that has crippled the health system and forced hundreds, if not thousands, of patients to seek admission in overcrowded hospitals.

As of Monday, over 17,000 people have died in the Philippines due to COVID-19. – Rappler.com

Read this two-part series on the COVID-19 surge in the country:

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.