MANILA: The Philippines continued to record a spike in COVID-19 infections on Monday, with officials at a Quezon City public hospital likening the crisis to a “war zone” as health facilities across the country struggled to cope with an influx of patients.
The country recorded 9,628 new infections on Monday, as the government placed its capital, Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces, under one of the strictest lockdown levels in March to deal with the outbreak.
“It’s like a war zone now,” healthcare worker John M. told Arab News on Monday, describing scenes at his hospital of patients on a stretcher or folding bed and lying in the hallway.
“This has never happened before. It’s because of an influx of COVID patients. Also, we don’t turn away patients who are brought to the facility, ”said John, who requested that his name be changed because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The health ministry said Monday’s infections brought the national total to 945,745.
It reported 88 more coronavirus deaths, bringing the death toll to 16,048, with 788,322 recoveries and 141,375 active cases.
Since the peak in March, several hospitals have said they are operating at full capacity for patients with COVID-19, some of whom have had to wait several days to be admitted or travel from hospital to hospital for treatment. .
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), the largest COVID-19 referral facility in the country, had “a lot” of patients on the waiting list.
“They are already full, and we have a lot of patients on the waiting list,” Dr Joel Santiaguel, researcher in the pulmonary service of PGH, told Arab News.
Santiaguel said that compared to last year when a patient referred to PGH could be easily admitted, patients now had to wait several days or be transferred to the emergency room in an emergency. “But that also takes time.”
He also cited how ambulances were working overtime to transport critical patients to hospitals, with a long queue parked outside PGH.
Santiaguel traced the crisis to the second or third week of March, saying PGH has never been crowded with COVID-19 patients before. He had also heard of some patients who were desperate for a bed to be admitted to the emergency room.
“We used to see about 20 patients per day, but from March until now we are treating 70 patients per day. There are no beds available, so patients either go to at least six to eight hospitals to find room in the ER or wait in the ER tent (to open up the space). “
Some patients have died while awaiting their turn.
John said such stories weren’t limited to patients, with a nurse at his facility testing positive for coronavirus also being forced to wait on a “rollaway bed in the hospital hallway for a vacant room or bed.”
The hospital where he works has two five-story buildings for COVID-19 patients, with each floor accommodating 50 patients.
“All rooms are currently occupied. Previously, we admitted one person per room. Now we have to take two per room.
According to the Department of Health, COVID-19 bed utilization remains high in Metro Manila, with beds in 700 of its intensive care units (ICUs) reporting 84% occupancy, while 3,800 isolation beds were at 63% occupancy. rate, 2,200 ward beds at 70 percent and ventilators at 61 percent.
Meanwhile, 66% of 1,900 intensive care beds, 49% of 13,600 isolation beds, 56% of 6,000 ward beds and 47% of 2,000 ventilators are currently in use nationwide.
In his televised address to the nation last week, President Rodrigo Duterte warned of further deaths from COVID-19 due to the lack of vaccine supply.
“So far the word is not available. Unavailable because there is not enough supply to inoculate the world. It will take time. I tell you, many more will die because of it. I just can’t tell who.
On Monday, however, Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said the number of COVID-19 cases in a few cities in Metro Manila had started to decline in recent days, in part due to the outbreak. intensified work of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) program.
He said that although there was only a slight decrease, it was “still proof” that the PDTIR initiative was working.
He added that the results of the lockdown of Manila and its surrounding provinces would be visible after three to four weeks.
During a press briefing this weekend, Under Secretary of Health Maria Rosario Vergeire said the department was stepping up efforts to expand the health system.
“The most important thing for us now is, even as the numbers grow, to have enough healthcare capacity to accommodate patients, especially those who need hospital care or need quarantine care. We are increasing (the number of) beds, discussing with our local governments to intensify our response. ”
She also expressed hope that cases would decrease in the coming days and that hospitals in Metro Manila would be decongested.