PGH stops accepting ‘walk-in’ COVID-19 patients | Inquirer News

PGH stops accepting ‘walk-in’ COVID-19 patients

SUSPENDED: Several COVID-19 notices, including the temporary ban on walk-in patients, are posted at the gate of the Philippine General Hospital’s out-patient building in Manila. (Photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the country’s biggest COVID-19 referral facility, has stopped accepting walk-in patients as the surge in new infections continued to overwhelm the health-care system.

PGH on Tuesday sought public understanding as it announced its decision to temporarily stop admitting patients to its emergency department.

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PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario said in a Viber message that while they would accept emergencies and life-threatening cases such as trauma patients, PGH would not allow walk-ins or direct admissions and has advised patients to have their referring hospital or local government coordinate with the PGH Transfer Command Center hotline.

In an advisory, PGH said the number of COVID-19 patients had already exceeded its 230-bed capacity by more than a hundred people, most of them requiring intensive care, high-flow oxygen supply and ventilators.

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“It would only put the patients and our staff at risk if we allow the numbers to continue to increase,” it said.

Stricter mobility

The record high numbers of daily cases and deaths should also be addressed by a return to a “true ECQ” or enhanced community quarantine, according to a former pandemic government adviser.

The independent OCTA Research has projected the country’s daily case tally to peak over the next two weeks and reach around 20,000.

In a television interview on Tuesday, OCTA fellow and professor Guido David said that while the reproduction or infection rate in Metro Manila decreased from 1.9 to 1.64 during the Aug. 6-20 ECQ or the most stringent lockdown category, it was still too slow to pull the number of cases down.

Anything higher than a reproduction rate of one indicated an upward trend, David said.

“It’s counterintuitive to shift prematurely from ECQ to [modified ECQ],” Dr. Tony Leachon noted in a Viber message. The government on Aug. 21 downgraded the National Capital Region’s quarantine status to a less restrictive one.

Leachon warned that the country was in a for “perfect storm” primarily due to the spread of the Delta variant, unless it reverted to a real ECQ.

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“True ECQ would mean that there would be less people going out and [mobility is] limited to essential workers while we build up our health-care capacities,” he said.

Leachon compared the recent ECQ with those in the past, which were more restrictive in terms of public transportation and business and workplace operating capacities.

For former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, the government must now aim for a higher vaccine coverage, in terms of population percentage, to 85 perecent from 70 percent because of the more infectious Delta variant.

Within target

However, Malacañang has remained unfazed by the rising number of daily cases, saying it was within government projections and that the country’s health-care system was coping while the mass vaccination drive accelerated.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in his press briefing on Tuesday that the 18,332 new cases reported the previous day was still within the projection of the FASSSTER monitoring tool, a tracker of disease spreads developed by the Department of Health and unit Philippine Council for Health Research and Development together with Ateneo de Manila University.

FASSSTER, according to Roque, projected up to 20,000 daily cases after two weeks of the recent ECQ followed by a modified ECQ.

“We are within projection for as long as we do not exceed 20,000 per day. So if you’re thinking that ECQ will result in a drastic reduction in cases, that’s not the projection. So I would say we are on track,” he said.

New cases

The DOH on Tuesday reported 12,067 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 1,869,691.

In its daily case bulletin, the DOH said the relatively lower tally was due to fewer laboratory tests on Sunday.

The same bulletin said the active cases or currently sick individuals stood at 127,703, of which 95.5 percent were mild.

Another 303 deaths pushed the country’s total toll to 32,264, while 14,565 patients have since recovered, bringing the total number of survivors to 1,709,724.

The positivity rate in the country was at 24.9 percent, or one in four of the 45,593 tested on Sunday was positive for COVID-19. The DOH also said 73 percent of all ICU beds in the country were currently occupied, while 67 percent of all COVID-19 ward beds were occupied and 62 percent of isolation beds and 53 percent of all mechanical ventilators in use.

Equal protection

Vaccine expert panel member Dr. Rontgene Solante, a guest in Roque’s briefing, also noted that all vaccine brands currently used in the country could give protection against all types of COVID-19, from asymptomatic to severe.

Solante belied claims that some vaccine brands lose efficacy after six to eight months, which was why the government was not yet recommending booster shots.

“[If] you will be vaccinated, then even if you will be exposed, your risk of getting the infection and transmitting it will be a bit lower and significantly lower compared to those who are not yet vaccinated,” he said.

The doctor confirmed that in many hospitals, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients were starting to outnumber those who have been inoculated.

“In fact, among those that developed into critical cases, the number of the unvaccinated is very high compared to the vaccinated. So we can see how important is the vaccine at this point in time when surges are happening,” he said.

Asked if the Palace was in favor of proposals to keep the unvaccinated at home and allow only the vaccinated to go out, Roque said it was too early to make a decision.

“In a perfect world when a majority have been vaccinated, that may be done. But now, we are still 7 percent away—in Metro Manila alone—from 50 percent [population protection] so let us not talk about that yet. Maybe later on the Metro Manila mayors will themselves provide for ordinances once a majority of us here in Metro Manila have been vaccinated. [It’s] premature to answer that as of now,” he said.

—WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU 
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