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5 Metro Manila hospitals reach full capacity for COVID-19 cases

MAKESHIFT QUARANTINE As major Metro Manila hospitals struggle to accommodate patients amid increasing coronavirus cases, the Quezon City government hopes to ease their workload by setting up isolation tents in a covered basketball court at Quezon Memorial Circle for people being observed for signs of infection. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines — Five private hospitals in Metro Manila are asking the public to look for other medical centers as they have exceeded the capacity to care for COVID-19 cases.

One government hospital, the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), in Quezon City is urging the same course of action as it raised worries over the health of its patients.

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“We are a cardiac center. We have a lot of heart cases. These are all high-risk patients. We hope that they will have mercy and not go here,” Dr. Joel Abanilla, PHC executive director, said in a radio interview.

The overburdened private hospitals are St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) and De los Santos Medical Center, both in Quezon City; SLMC Global City in Taguig City; The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City; and Makati Medical Center (MMC) in Makati City.

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Hospitals in San Juan City—the densest urban area in Metro Manila—could be operating past full capacity one week from now as its confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to 48 on Tuesday, according to its mayor, Francis Zamora.

San Juan has three hospitals—the government-owned San Juan Medical Center and two private hospitals, Cardinal Santos Medical Center and St. Martin de Porres Charity Hospital.

Distress signals

Other hospitals in Metro Manila and Luzon have sent distress signals on social media, seeking medical supplies for health workers attending to COVID-19 patients.

PHC, located on East Avenue in Quezon City, appealed to people to seek treatment elsewhere should they suspect they had contracted the virus.

The hospital is currently taking care of eight COVID-19 patients, while 34 of its employees are in quarantine, according to Abanilla. Six of its doctors have also tested positive for the virus, two of whom have died—Raul Jara and Israel Bactol. (See related story on this page.)Acknowledging reports of some hospitals already reaching capacity, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said isolation rooms were still available in government hospitals. She, however, did not identify these hospitals.

Vergeire earlier said the Department of Health was expecting preparations for the designated COVID-19 referral centers to be completed within a week. These are the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, and Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, formerly Tala Leprosarium, in Caloocan City.

In its advisory on Tuesday, SLMC Quezon City and SLMC Global City said they were “no longer capable” of taking in COVID-19 patients. Combined, the hospitals are currently taking care of 48 confirmed cases and 139 patients under investigation (PUIs).

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592 on quarantine

On top of this, 592 of their health workers are on quarantine due to exposure to patients who have contracted and believed to have been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The SLMC hospitals have 1,146 rooms.

“[A]dmitting more COVID-19 patients will seriously impact our ability to deliver the critical level of care and attention patients need at this time. We are also treating non-COVID-19 patients on other floors in which their health conditions cannot be compromised,” the SLMC management said.

‘Overstretched’

On Monday night, TMC made a similar appeal.

The 800-bed hospital in Pasig said it was taking care of 18 COVID-19 patients and 85 PUIs. Eleven other patients, five in critical condition, are in its emergency department and waiting for rooms.

As of Tuesday, 20 more positive cases have been admitted.

“Our front-line health care workforce is already overstretched as 137 of them are in quarantine. Unless we are able to move the new patients to other hospitals, our health care delivery system is going to break down,” TMC president and CEO Eugenio Jose Ramos said in a statement.

In a television interview, Ramos also mentioned the daily risk faced by health care workers looking after COVID-19 patients, saying they needed rest periods to be able to perform their duties.

“We cannot take the risk of letting them continue to work in case they infect others,” Ramos said.

Ramos said TMC was discussing with Mayor Vico Sotto to convert the 64-bed Pasig Children’s City Hospital into a COVID-19 center.

MMC also said it had reached full capacity to handle patients suspected to have COVID-19.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, MMC said it had made “a thorough review of our (717) bed capacity (particu­larly the critical care units), workforce availability and supply of vital infection management equipment, and in consultation with our respective medical teams and the management.”

The statement, signed by MMC medical director Dr. Saturnino Javier, said the hospital had so far “attended to more than 700 patients suspected to have COVID-19 since the outbreak of this infection” in the country.

MMC said it was looking after 70 in-patients—those who are coronavirus positive and those awaiting test results, including some of its own doctors and other health workers.

“MMC has reached its threshold in its capacity to respond to more COVID-19 cases. As such, we can no longer extend the same degree of care and attention for any additional admission,” it said.

Not enough supplies

De los Santos Medical Center, a 150-bed private hospital, also released a statement saying its intensive care unit and designated isolation areas were at full capacity and that its supply of personal protective equipment for its staff and other medical supplies would not be enough should it admit more PUIs.

“It is for this reason that we will be unable to admit additional COVID-19 related cases. More PUI patients will mean requiring more supplies and manpower, which we unfortunately do not have at present,” it added.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan suggested that two military hospitals (V. Luna Medical Center and Veterans’ Memorial) and Quezon Institute—all in Quezon City—could be turned into COVID-19 centers. —WITH REPORTS FROM MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ, DEXTER CABALZA AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA INQ

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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