NEWS | PGH faces crisis as COVID-19 cases continue to soar
By: The News Team
The Philippine General Hospital (PGH), which is currently on its fourth month as one of the country’s COVID-19 referral centers, faces the emerging problem of overcapacity in their Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
From July 3 to 12, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. As of July 13, the country has over 57,000 cases, meaning numbers have tripled since June.
As a result, PGH public affairs coordinator Dr. Jonas Del Rosario reported that the current admissions exceeded its initial 130-bed capacity for COVID-19. PGH thus allocated buffer beds for additional patients with mild to moderate cases outside the 130-bed capacity. Despite this, they ensured the public that there are enough health workers to attend to COVID-19 patients.
Continuous rise of cases
As of writing, there are a total of 171 COVID-19 patients admitted in the hospital. Among these, 148 are confirmed COVID-19 patients, 21 are suspected cases, and 2 are probable cases. Suspected cases include individuals who are showing symptoms of the disease, while probable cases are suspect cases that already tested for COVID-19 but received inconclusive results.
According to Del Rosario, the steady increase in the number of cases is a result of increased testing capacity in the country, along with laxer quarantine measures.
Amidst the crisis, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso pledged his support to PGH, stating that the six district hospitals in the city will be open to help PGH.
Toll on health workers
According to the Malacañang, the reopening of the economy will be accompanied by expanded testing, tracing, and treatment efforts to limit the spread of the virus. As such, economic analyst Robert Herrera Lim pointed out that the Philippine government is now facing a difficult task of saving lives and restarting the country’s economy. However, critics of the administration argue that health workers are caught in the crossfire.
As of July 12, a total of 3,688 health workers in the country are infected with COVID-19, 200 of which are from PGH. Del Rosario suggested that 65% of PGH workers got infected in their home communities, and not by working in COVID-19 wards. As the number of infected health workers continues to rise, DOH urges the public to follow the health and safety protocols being implemented.
Consequently, President Rodrigo Duterte highlighted the courage and invaluable contributions of health workers by signing Proclamation №976 on July 6. The proclamation declares 2020 as the “Year of Filipino Health Workers.” However, the declaration received backlash from health workers.
“Only empty words of appreciation from the government were given. The spirit was trampled in by the unjust provision and deceiving policy of the COVID hazard pay and special risk allowance.” nurses’ group Filipino Nurses United (FNU) explained. “We don’t ask for more, we don’t ask for fame. We are thankful for the recognition but what we need most is PROTECTION.”
Moreover, Laguna Representative Ruth Mariano-Hernandez added that the health sector was underfunded, under-compensated, overworked, and at the brink of being overwhelmed. Correspondingly, Hernandez filed House Bill (HB) № 7053, which aims to increase the entry level salaries of government doctors to Php 85,074 a month and Php 35, 106 a month for government nurses.
“We can only attain quality public health care if we are able to encourage, hire, and retain health workers in our public health facilities with adequate compensation and the necessary benefits,” Hernandez concluded.