‘Sustainable solutions’ needed to break lockdown cycle – doctors
MANILA, Philippines — After seven months, hospitals are again overrun with COVID-19 patients and the situation will likely be seen again without “systemic changes” in the government’s pandemic response, according to a group of doctors.
The Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) put forward six “sustainable solutions” to the health crisis shortly after Malacañang announced on Saturday that Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces would revert to enhanced community quarantine this week.
“The lockdown is an important but a mere temporary measure to stop the movement of the people and stop the transmission of the virus so that our hospitals will not be overrun,” said Dr. Pauline Convocar, president of the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine and an active member of HPAAC, during an online press conference on Saturday night.
Convocar said hospitals in Metro Manila reached “critical condition” on Friday and had to turn away patients.
“Our hearts break whenever there are patients who die in the ER (emergency room) because there are no available beds in the wards or the ICU (intensive care unit),” said Convocar, who was on duty on Saturday when she read HPAAC’s position paper.
During the first “timeout” called by health workers last August, when hospitals in Metro Manila hit capacity due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, HPAAC also asked for “comprehensive reforms” to the pandemic response.
“Although some reforms have been made, there are still a lot of changes needed so that cases will not surge the moment we reopen the economy. If we do not do these, we will keep going back to this situation,” Convocar said.
HPAAC asked to:
• Expand the One Hospital Command Center into a One COVID-19 Referral Network System;
• Connect all COVID-19 data from testing, contact tracing, isolation, quarantine and treatment through a central data repository warehouse for an integrated response;
• Apply the four principal health measures of adequate ventilation, physical distancing, proper use of mask and face shield and limited interaction in public transportation, workplaces and public places including schools;
• Enforce the vaccination prioritization plan and penalize those who will jump the line;
• Ensure enough public transportation and safe bike lanes for health workers and essential workers during the lockdown, and
• Provide adequate aid for vulnerable groups whose livelihood are affected by the lockdown.
Convocar said the group’s proposed COVID-19 referral network would not only guide patients where to seek treatment but also identify which ones can be managed from home and which ones have to be admitted.
HPAAC asked President Rodrigo Duterte to order all local governments and private establishments to submit the data from their contact tracing app to a centralized data repository.
“There is no central body with the data from the contact tracing apps so we do not know the movement of the virus. We do not know who needs testing, who needs quarantine, who needs hospital referral,” Convocar said.
Dr. Aileen Espina, a member of HPAAC, said having a single contact tracing app for the country was no longer possible. “The important thing we can do now is unify them into an integrated system,” she said.
“If we complete this, we are future proofing our COVID response so this will not happen again,” Espina said.
HPAAC “strongly condemns those especially government officials who do not respect the national prioritization plan,” Convocar said.
The priority for vaccination are health-care workers, senior citizens and people with existing illnesses who are susceptible to becoming seriously ill if infected with the coronavirus.
“We urge the government to hold accountable anyone who will be proven to have violated this plan in order to serve as an example that there is punishment for those who will jump the line,” Convocar said.
“Every day we see the suffering of the sick and the effect of the pandemic not only on the people’s health but their livelihood. The reality is, we can only reopen the economy if we already have systems in place to control COVID-19,” Convocar said.
“We are in a health crisis first and foremost. When we are able to solve this health crisis, everything will follow,” she added.
Record new daily infections continued Sunday, with the Department of Health (DOH) reporting 9,475 additional cases, bringing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 721,892 overall.
In its weekly “mass recovery” report, the DOH declared 22,000 mildly ill and asymptomatic patients as recovered after completing 14 days in quarantine, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors in the country to 603,154.
The health service logged 11 more deaths, pushing the death toll to 13,170.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 105,568 active cases, of which 95.5 percent were mild, 2.5 percent asymptomatic, 0.43 moderate, 0.8 percent severe, and 0.7 percent critical.
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