Healthcare capacity remains a top concern as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb following the entrance of the concerning Delta coronavirus variant.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Edsel Salvaña, who advises the government pandemic task force, pushed aside the criticisms against the Duterte administration’s response and said “people just keep looking at the cases.”
“They’re not looking at how well the hospitals are coping,” Salvaña said, as quoted by CNN Philippines.
“We know there is increasing utilization for ICU and hospitals, but if you look back at April, right now we are still able to get people in,” he added.
The latest data from the Department of Health, however, shows that the intensive care units’ occupancy rates in the country are at “high risk.”
There is 71% occupancy in the country, while 72% in the National Capital Region which is currently under the strictest lockdown category.
Ngayong 4 PM, Agosto 16, 2021, ang Department of Health ay nakapagtala ng 14,610 na karagdagang kaso ng COVID-19. Samantala ay mayroon namang naitalang 10,674 na gumaling at 27 na pumanaw.
Sa kabuuang bilang ng mga naitalang kaso sa bansa, 6.1% (106,672) ang aktibong kaso, pic.twitter.com/VYBNDCS0LM
— Department of Health (@DOHgovph) August 16, 2021
Members of the health sector, however, confess of feeling overwhelmed while many are tendering their resignations after more than a year of dealing with the threat of COVID-19 with no signs of abating.
“One of the most UNCARING things about the Philippines’ bungled COVID-19 response is that the primary metric continues to be Health Care Utilization Rate (HCUR). It’s okay for people to keep on getting COVID-19 as long as hospitals can ‘cope’ & respond to cases,” Dr. Paolo Medina, an associate professor of community medicine, tweeted in response to Salvaña’s remarks.
“Thus, it has never been about containment, but mitigation. Our leaders don’t care about mass testing, effective contact tracing, timely isolation [or] quarantine, border control, humane [or] compassionate social amelioration, good governance. We were ‘ok’ to keep cases at [4,000-5,000] daily,” he added.
Another healthcare worker shared that she and her colleagues “were able to let the COVID-19 cases in” because they were not admitting patients whose cases are not COVID-related.
“We’re letting them in at the expense of other health conditions that also need in-patient care. Hospitals are being forced to choose who to accommodate which should. not. be. the. case,” she tweeted.
A neuroanesthesiologist likewise rebutted Salvaña’s comments about the situation of hospitals.
“Evidence, please. I welcome you to come with me to my hospitals, to ARMMC, CSMC, FUMC. Every one fully occupied. We didn’t contain this. Even WHO says so. You naysayer won’t be content with what’s in front of you. That’s your problem, not ours. We don’t believe your butt,” Dr. Eduardo Barrenechea II said, referring to the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center and Fatima University Medical Center.
A pediatrician and nutritionist-dietitian also shared his experience in response to Salvaña’s remarks.
“I experienced admitting patients with no nurses around because all [four] of them are attending to 57 patients in tents, [two] of whom are undergoing CPR [Cardiopulmonary resuscitation] at the same time. How well? How, well… ” Dr. Jeremiah Torrico said.
In Laguna, the parking lot at Ospital ng Biñan was converted into a makeshift reception to receive COVID-19 patients who could not be accommodated inside.
“You cannot expect to be given quality patient care under such deplorable conditions,” Dr. Carlo Trinidad, another healthcare worker, wrote.
Nurses and healthcare workers have warned that they would conduct “mass resignation” due to the inability of the DOH to give “special risk allowance” and “active hazard duty day (AHDP)” as hospitals reach their full capacity.
The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) said that it sympathizes with the healthcare workers’ condition but casts down the possibility of holding a possible mass resignation, saying that it will only affect patients currently admitted at hospitals.
“Naniniwala po ako na ‘yung mga health workers natin ay hindi naman pababayaan ng ating healthcare institution sapagkat alam naman po nila na ang malalagay sa alanganin ay ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino, ‘yung mga pasyente natin,” PNA national president Melbert Reyes said to DZMM Teleradyo.
Last Saturday, DOH said they are willing to listen and do the best they can to meet the demands and concerns of the healthcare workers who are planning to quit their jobs.
“Sana po mapag-usapan natin lahat ng inyong mga hinaing para hindi tayo umabot sa ganitong aksyon dahil ito po ay makakaapekto sa sitwasyon natin na kailangang-kailangan po namin kayo… ng ating mga kababayan,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said. — with reports from Jeline Malasig