Twenty of 25 volunteer doctors are leaving the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is now operating well beyond its capacity, with 200 more COVID-19 patients awaiting admission, a hospital spokesman said Monday.
In an interview with the ABS-CBN news channel, PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario said only five of their 25 Department of Health (DOH) volunteer doctors have opted to renew their contracts at one of the country’s premier referral facilities, which has 320 beds allotted for COVID-19 patients.
“We are beyond our capacity -- 310 patients in the hospital, about 40 patients in the emergency room waiting to get into the hospital, so that’s pretty much 350 out of 320. We’re 30 patients above our threshold,” Del Rosario said.
“And then there are about 200 patients waiting in the wings wanting to be admitted, waiting to be transferred to PGH,” he added.
Still, the Palace on Monday said the recruitment of health professionals continues.
“The Health Department has been recruiting medical professionals on volunteer status or those receiving salary. We have a lot of graduates,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
Despite the manpower shortage, Roque said the government is committed to expanding COVID-19 bed capacity.
Private hospitals are facing the same situation, although the number of doctors quitting could not be verified as of press time.
Last month, the premier St. Luke’s Medical Center reported that 23 of its emergency room nurses resigned from its Global City hospital in Taguig to seek opportunities abroad.
In August last year, over 80 medical societies sounded a distress call for health workers, saying the country’s healthcare system had been overwhelmed. “We are waging a losing battle against COVID-19,” they added.
Frustrated health workers recently took to the streets to also demand the release of their long overdue COVID-19 benefits.
“If we are heroes for you, why has it been a year now, yet we are still here in the streets calling and shouting for the immediate release of our hard-earned COVID-19 benefits?” said Edwin Pacheco, president of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute Employees Association- Alliance of Health Workers.
Del Rosario admitted that it would be impossible to admit all of these patients on the waitlist since many of the COVID-19 patients currently admitted are severe to critical cases that need to stay in hospital many days.
He said PGH is also facing a staff shortage with the departure of the 20 DOH volunteer doctors. He said there was a need for additional doctors to attend to patients who contracted COVID-19.
“It’s so hard to open up more beds, more wards if you do not have the right doctors to take care of them. A lot of our patients are severely ill, so they really demand specialists, not just general doctors,” Del Rosario said.
He said the DOH volunteers had been assigned to COVID-19 patients.
“They were a big help, these DOH volunteers. We had 25 over the course of a year. We are grateful for these DOH volunteers. These are mostly general medical doctors who volunteered, and they got paid by the DOH,” Del Rosario said.
He said the PGH is currently hiring doctors and is even trying to get the help of private practitioners.
The Department of Health is “willing to pay for any takers,” the hospital spokesman said.
Although there are billions of pesos allocated for the hiring of health care workers, Del Rosario said “you really have to increase their salary, really way above what they are getting now” to be able to invite them to come on board.
Reports of delays in the release of hazard pay and special risk allowances do not help, he added.
“That piles up: they are physically, emotionally tired, then they don’t get the compensation they feel they deserve and there are also other opportunities that are open, out of the Philippines. It’s a well-known fact that a lot of our frontliners are resigning and they are taking the jobs being offered in First-World countries,” he said.
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