Medical industry leaders to DOH: Designate dedicated coronavirus hospitals now

Bonz Magsambol

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Medical industry leaders to DOH: Designate dedicated coronavirus hospitals now

Darren Langit

'If we do not put our act together, the prospect of the healthcare delivery systems crashing down is imminent and real,' the chiefs of 11 hospitals in Metro Manila say in a unity statement

MANLA, Philippines – Saying there is no time to lose, the chiefs of major hospitals in Metro Manila appealed to the government to designate hospitals dedicated for COVID-19 patients now.

“If we do not put our act together,  the prospect of the healthcare delivery systems crashing down is imminent and real. It is already happening,” the chiefs of 11 hospitals, endorsed by the Philippine College of Physicians and the Philippine College of Surgeons, said in a unity statement sent to media on Thursday, March 19.

According to the group, at least one or two centralized hospitals should be “adequately equipped and invested upon by the government, designated to receive, screen and treat PUIs and COVID-19 positive patients” to cater to the needs of growing number of cases.

They said they were aware of a Department of Health plan to designated COVID-19 hospitals but issued the appeal to highlight its urgency.

“As we observe globally, and in alignment with the government efforts, the most effective way to slow down this pandemic is through effective containment and distancing within the potentially disease-stricken population. Given the sharp increase of COVID-19+ patients per day, we have to act fast, and act now. There is no time for indecision,” the group said.

“With the COVID-19 hospital(s) in place, the other institutions can then focus on the bigger population who need to be treated for the rest of the other conditions other than the COVID-19 infection,” they added.

In explaining the need for the dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, the medical chiefs noted that “an alarming number of nurses, residents, consultants, and hospital employees are under 14-day quarantine while the number of PUIs (Persons under investigation) continue to flock to our emergency rooms every day.”

“We speak, as one, because the mismatch between the exponential surge of patients and the available healthcare workers is no longer occurring in just one center, but in all our respective institutions. We share information and coping mechanisms, but we cannot share resources that we no longer have,” they said.

They said their regular rooms have been turned into coronavirus isolation areas, leaving less space for patients who have similarly life-threatening illnesses, 

“The panic is escalating, mortality is increasing, our supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) are running short, our frontline staff are increasingly getting depleted as more of them are quarantined or physically and emotionally exhausted,  and a number of our medical colleagues are already hooked to respirators fighting for their lives in various ICUs. Even our ICUs are getting full,” the doctors said.

“Soon we will have a shortage of respirators. We have every reason to be scared; we are, indeed, very scared because we feel that we are on our own to face our countrymen in dire need of help,” they added. (READ: LEFT IN THE DARK: Little protection forgovernment’s coronavirus frontliners)

The signatories to the unity statement are the following:

  • Adventist Medical Center – Dr Bibly L. Macaya, President & CEO  
  • Asian Hospital Medical Center – Dr Jose M. Acuin, Chief Medical Officer 
  • Cardinal Santos Medical Center – Dr Zenaida M. Javier-Uy, SVP, Chief Medical Officer  
  • Fatima University Medical Center – Dr Oscar Payawal, Chief Medical Officer 
  • Makati Medical Center – Dr Saturnino P. Javier, Medical Director & Interim CEO
  • Manila Doctors Hospital – Dr Dante Morales, Board Member and Dr Mario M. Juco, Chief Medical Officer
  • Medical Center Manila  – Dr Eduardo S. Eseque, Chief Medical Officer 
  • Our Lady Of Lourdes Hospital – Dr Milagros Joyce Santos, Chief Medical Officer 
  • The Medical City  – Dr Eugenio Jose F. Ramos, President & CEO 
  • St Luke’s Medical Center – Dr Benjamin S.A. Campomanes Jr, Chief Medical Officer  
  • University Of The East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center – Dr Napoleon B. Alcedo, Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Their statement was endorsed by Dr Gina C. Nazareth, president of the Philippine College Of Physicians; and Dr Jose Antonio M. Salud, president of the Philippine College Of Surgeons.

As of Thursday, the Philippines has 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Experts from the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) the cases could peak to as much as 75,000 in the next 3 months or by June if not properly contained.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III acted on the urgent appeal on Friday, March 21, and said he had given the go-signal to turn the Dr Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and a building at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) for exclusive use of coronavirus patients.

The proposal to designate the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City as a COVID-19 hospital was still under study considering the number of non-coronavirus patients, including cancer patients, at the Lung Center. (READ: PH gov’t eyes turning Lung Center into hospital exclusive for coronavirus cases)

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16 declared a state of calamity in the Philippines as cases of COVID-19 in the country continue to rise.

As of 12 pm on Thursday, March 19, the Philippines’ total tally of COVID-19 cases spiked to 217, 17 of which were fatal. Eight patients have recovered from the disease.  –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.