Public hospitals must allot 70% of beds in case of virus surge
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is updating its policy on COVID-19 hospital capacity, with public hospitals expected to set aside up to 70 percent of their beds for coronavirus patients.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Wednesday said the DOH was amending its guidelines for both public and private hospitals to ensure there would be enough beds, especially for patients severely ill with COVID-19 or in critical condition.
Under the revised guidelines, Vergeire said public hospitals would be required to set aside 30 percent of their current number of beds for COVID-19 cases, which may be raised to a surge capacity of 50 percent. Should the need arise, capacity may be increased to up to 70 percent, she said.
As for private hospitals, their COVID-19 capacity would be lowered to 20 percent, with 10 percent surge capacity.
Vergeire said the DOH and other government agencies were looking for incentives for private hospitals so that they could further expand their COVID-19 capacity.
Among the incentives the DOH is looking at are tax deductions and the fast-tracking of the hospitals’ reimbursement by Philippine Health Insurance Corp.
“Right now, all of our public hospitals are following these instructions. During these past days, the private hospitals are also complying. They are opening up new units so that they could accommodate more patients, especially now that there is an increasing number of patients being sent to the hospitals,” Vergeire said.
Under DOH Administrative Order No. 2020-016, released on May 4, at least 30 percent of all public and private hospital beds should be allocated for COVID-19 cases to meet the government’s minimum health system capacity.
Based on DOH data as of July 12, only public hospitals in Mimaropa and Central Visayas were able to meet the 30 percent bed allocation, as they have set aside 38 percent and 42 percent, respectively, of their beds for COVID-19.
In Metro Manila, the epicenter of the outbreak, public hospitals were able to allocate only 17 percent of their beds, slightly higher than the private sector’s allocation of 14 percent.
On average, private hospitals across the country had set aside only 9 percent of their beds, while public hospitals were able to allocate only 20 percent.
As of July 20, the national bed occupancy rate is 51.1 percent. The occupancy rate is highest in Metro Manila at 74.6 percent. In Central Visayas, it is 56.4 percent.
Apart from revising the guidelines for hospitals, Vergeire said the DOH had also established under its “One Hospital Command” a network between hospitals and temporary treatment monitoring centers to better facilitate the transfer of mildly ill patients and those who show no symptoms. The move is intended to further decongest hospitals.
Earlier, COVID-19 task force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. proposed building four COVID-19 hospitals in Metro Manila.
Vergeire clarified that the government need not build new hospitals but rather it can use the new wings in hospitals that are nearing completion.
“These were specifically dedicated for other services in the hospital. But now that we are in this situation, these hospitals opening their additional buildings or wings have to dedicate these first for COVID-19 cases,” she said.
These include the buildings inside East Avenue Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines and Labor Hospital or the Quirino Memorial Medical Center.
Cases reach 72K
On Wednesday, the DOH reported 1,594 additional coronavirus infections, pushing the national tally to 72,269—close to the University of the Philippines’ upper limit projection of 72,971 by July 22.
The additional cases were reported by 78 of the 89 accredited laboratories.
Of these cases, 750 were patients who tested positive for the new coronavirus in the last three days, while 844 were people who tested positive four days ago or earlier.
Metro Manila still accounted for the most number of these cases, 971, followed by Cebu (252), Zamboanga del Sur (53), Negros Occidental (35) and Rizal (26).
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Metro Manila might be placed under stricter quarantine measures if coronavirus infections were still rising by the end of July.
The DOH reported that 342 more patients had recovered, bringing the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 23,623. It also reported that six more patients had died, raising the death toll to 1,843.
—With a report from Nestor Corrales
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