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No need for time out yet despite rising COVID-19 cases, says PGH spokesperson

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There is no need yet for a time out for medical frontliners even if the number of COVID-19 admissions has been rising, the spokesperson of the Philippine General Hospital said on Monday.

"Hindi pa naman kasi medyo bago pa lang ito na bumugso ang admissions. Pero siyempre, depende sa trend. We are hoping na hindi tayo bumalik sa dati," PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario said in an interview on GMA's Unang Hirit.

Last August, various medical associations called on President Rodrigo Duterte to place the National Capital Region under 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 to a modified enhanced community quarantine for 15 days starting August 4.

The number of COVID-19 cases has been going up at a faster rate lately, and for the past three days, more than 3,000 new cases have been reported. The Philippines’ tally of COVID-19 cases leapt to 594,412 on Sunday after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,276 new infections. Of the total, 36,043 are active cases undergoing treatment of quarantine, of which 90.6% are mild, 4.2% are asymptomatic, 2.2% are critical, 2.1% are severe and 0.91% are moderate.

Data from the DOH also showed that 60% of the country’s intensive care unit beds are available, while 77% of the mechanical ventilators are ready for use.

More than 100 patients

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

"Totoo, na-breach na naman namin 'yung 100-mark. Kasi for the last few months, we were just averaging mga 70-80. Tapos may time pa nga a month ago umabot pa kami ng line of 60. So masaya kami noon kasi bumababa na talaga," del Rosario said.

"Tapos itong pagpasok ng Marso, medyo nagulat kami kasi ang bilis ng pag-akyat. Sumipa ng mahigit isang daan. Ang pinakamataas ay 105 ang naka-admit na patients [na may COVID-19] sa PGH. Kahapon po ay nasa 102 kami," he said.

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

PGH director Dr. Gap Legaspi on Monday however clarified that the hospital has not reached full capacity.

"Not true we're being overrun by COVID-19 patients. Na-overrun po kami ng non-COVID patients," he said during a Palace briefing.



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

"Ang original bed capacity ng PGH ay 200. We have to make adjustments po, kasi for a long time hindi na po nagagamit 'yung ilang wards at rooms sa pay wards sa COVID. So kawawa naman 'yung non-COVID patients namin na hindi namin ma-admit. We opened some wings para ma-accommodate 'yung non-COVID admissions. Pero dahil eto na, dumadami na naman ang COVID, we may have to slide back at reconvert 'yung ilang rooms ulit at buksan ulit para sa COVID," he said.

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

"Medyo bumabalik po kami sa dating arrangement, 'yung mga elective po o 'yung semi-urgent na non-COVID ay hindi muna namin tatanggapin dahil ito nga 'yung pagbugso ng pasok ng mga COVID patients. Kaya 'yung mga pasyenteng iba, kailangang well coordinated. 'Yung real emergency cases like trauma, life-threatening conditions like na-heart attack, na-stroke, bleeding, accidents, 'yan po puwedeng tanggapin. Pero 'yung mga elective po... ay ide-delay muna ang admissions," the PGH spokesperson said.

Healthcare workers

Del Rosario said 15 of their healthcare 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 healthcare workers due to exposure.

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

"Totoo po na medyo na-alarm kami ng konti dahil tumaas ang bilang ng healthcare workers na nagkaroon ng COVID," he added.

"Normally naman in a month, meron eh, average namin ay 10-12 na health workers na nagpo-positive. Some of them probably got it from the hospital. Many of them got it from their communities. 'Yun ang average for the past four months, nasa 10 to 15. Pero pagpasok ng Marso, nu'ng first four days of March ay meron agad kami na 15 positive kaya medyo na-alarm kami," he said.

Del Rosario is 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.

"I think kombinasyon. I cannot just totally blame dahil may variant, pero siguradong may factor 'yan. Sinasabi ngayon nila na mas mabilis kumalat 'yung UK at South Africa variant. Tapos I think medyo nag-lax din 'yung mga tao though understandably pinayagan na rin lumabas. Siguro baka lang nakakalimot din sa minimum health standards, 'yung safety protocols. Minsan nakakalimutan nang sumunod," he said.

PGH has a patient with the South Africa variant who is currently 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 will 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. —KG, GMA News

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