No respite for medical workers amid rising cases

There is no need yet to impose stricter quarantine restrictions to give medical frontliners a respite, a spokesman for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said Monday.

In a TV interview, PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario said the uptick in hospital admissions was still new and would bear monitoring.

“We are hoping that we do not go back to the past,” he said in Filipino.

In August 2020, various medical associations called on President Rodrigo Duterte to place the National Capital Region under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as health workers were already worn out due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases being admitted then in hospitals.

Duterte thus placed Metro Manila and other high-risk areas back on a modified ECQ for 15 days starting Aug. 4.

The number of COVID-19 cases has been going up at a faster rate lately, and for the last four days, more than 3,000 new cases have been reported.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed that 60 percent of the country’s intensive care unit beds are available, while 77 percent of the mechanical ventilators are still available for use.

At PGH, the number of patients admitted due to COVID-19 breached the 100-mark this March.

“It’s true, we breached the 100-mark again. Because for the last few months, we were just averaging about 70-80. Then there was even a month ago when we reached 60. We were so happy then because it was really going down," del Rosario said.

“Then in March, we were a bit surprised because of the speed of the climb. It went over a hundred. The highest was 105 patients admitted [with COVID-19] to PGH. Yesterday we were at 102," he said.

Twenty-five patients were also on the waiting list for admission, he added.

Del Rosario said PGH will have to make adjustments to make more room for COVID-19 patients.

PGH has suspended for at least two weeks scheduled elective surgical procedures.

Real emergency cases like trauma, life-threatening conditions like heart attack, stroke, bleeding, and accidents, are still being admitted, the PGH spokesman said.

Del Rosario said 15 of their health care workers got COVID-19 in the first four days of March, prompting PGH to conduct more intensified contact tracing, more extensive testing, and put in quarantine a total of 80 health care workers due to exposure.

Of the 80 quarantined health care workers this month, six have tested positive for COVID-19, with some mildly symptomatic while others are asymptomatic, he said.

“It's true that we were a little alarmed because the number of health care workers who had COVID increased," he said.

Del Rosario was hesitant to say the surge in the number of COVID-19 cases is solely due to the UK and South Africa variants of the coronavirus detected in the country.

Del Rosario thinks it’s a combination of that and the non-observance of health protocols.

PGH has a patient with the South Africa variant who is being treated in isolation.

The hospital also appealed to transfer some patients to other COVID-19 referral facilities, given the increasing number of cases.

PGH has also suspended the clinical rotations of 4th year (clinical clerks) and 5th year (interns) students of the UP College of Medicine.

Meanwhile, del Rosario confirmed that AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines arrived before dawn on Monday at PGH.

The hospital was to start vaccinating health workers on Monday morning using AstraZeneca based on a prioritization list.

Del Rosario, who is a COVID-19 survivor, said he is in line for a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Other hospitals, too, reported a rise in their COVID-19 occupancy rate in the last few weeks.

On Sunday, the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) increased its COVID-dedicated beds to 78 percent from the previous 30 percent to 40 percent.

Of the 66 COVID-dedicated beds, 52 are occupied.

Some 85 percent of the intensive care unit beds in the hospital are also occupied.

Meanwhile, from 28 patients, 48 individuals are now confined in the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.

A total of 22 health workers have also contracted COVID-19 since January.

On Saturday, the DOH confirmed there is an upward trend in the number of confinement of COVID-19 patients in hospitals over the past weeks.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, dismissed the idea that a second wave of COVID-19 was already upon the country.

Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, meanwhile, said the rise in COVID-19 admissions was true also of hospitals in Cagayan Valley and Central Visayas.

The rise in cases might be due to the country's economy reopening, the public becoming lax in observing health protocols, and the entry of new coronavirus variants, Vega said.

A public health expert said the disease was spreading “faster than before” and urged the public to protect themselves.

“We have data to show that the rate of rise is unfortunately faster compared to before and this requires us to be very vigilant in terms of what we can do to protect ourselves," said Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, who is part of the technical working group that advises the DOH.

Topics: medical frontliners , Philippine General Hospital , quarantine restrictions
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