MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo has cast doubt on the claim that hospitals can still cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients: So why do people have to make reservations or line up outside hospitals to wait for available slots?
Robredo repeated in a Facebook post on Wednesday her observation that the Department of Health data on the availability of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in Metro Manila and nearby provinces did not reflect the situation on the ground.
“For almost a week now, we have been receiving distress calls from family members of Covid positive patients who cannot be admitted to hospitals. We have read how many have already died inside tents outside hospitals, waiting to be admitted to the ERs, in ambulances while in transit, at home without receiving any medical help,” Robredo said in her Facebook post.
According to the DOH COVID-19 bulletin on Wednesday, the capacity of hospitals nationwide has not been filled up: Only 79 percent of the ICU beds, 69 percent of isolation beds, 61 percent of ward bed allocated to COVID-19 patients in Metro Manila have been occupied.
But Robredo challenged these figures, citing reports that several COVID-19 patients had been asked to wait to be accommodated, either outside hospitals or at home.
She said that doctors informed her on Tuesday that the DOH figures and reality on the ground did not tally as there might have already been a reduction in the number of allocated beds.
Even the government’s own One Hospital Command Center, she said, referred patients to hospitals far away from Metro Manila.
But on Wednesday, Dr. Ted Herbosa, the special adviser to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said that hospitals could still make room for COVID-19 patients. He added that there was no collapse of the healthcare system because the government was still finding ways to adjust despite the overcrowding in Metro Manila.
“We can still adjust,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino, at the Laging Handa briefing. “If you look at the numbers, our national hospital utilization rate is still below 70 percent, That not yet a collapse.”
Robredo said that statement different from the accounts of people whose relatives had either waited for a long time before they being admitted or else died while waiting
“If people who don’t need hospitalization are still getting in line in hospitals, there must be underlying reasons. Have we built a system where people who are self-isolating at home would still have access to medical help when necessary?” Robredo asked.
“Most of the people coming to us for help are saying they can’t contact the hotline numbers given. It must be because the system is already overloaded,” she added. “Have they at least fixed the infrastructure for this? There are many offering Home Care Medical Package. But what happens who don’t have the money to pay?”
Overcrowding in hospitals has been well documented not only by ordinary netizens but by several well-known figures. According to former Sen. JV Ejercito, it took quite some time before his father, former President Joseph Estrada — a COVID-19 positive patient — got a room.
Singer Claire de la Fuente, who died of a heart attack on Tuesday, was also a COVID-19 patient. De la Fuente’s son, Gregorio de Guzman, said his mother’s death was believed to be due to stress and anxiety, as they were unable to get a hospital room after trying two hospitals.
De la Fuente eventually died in a hospital emergency room — two days after staying in a tent outside another hospital.
Robredo sought the DOH’s patience about her repeated calls.
“Pardon me for being insistent about this. People are getting sick and are dying. I hope we could speed up a bit our response because it’s really very urgent when the lives of people are at stake,” she said.
The current COVID-19 surge in the country has forced the government to place Metro Manila and four adjacent provinces — Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna — under a single so-called bubble under an enhanced community quarantine again.
As of Wednesday, the total number of active COVID-19 infections stood at over 130,000 after another 6,128 individuals tested positive for the disease.
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