There’s a grim despatch from Agence France-Presse about the situation in the Philippines this morning. In a bid to slow the spread of the virus and decongest hospitals, authorities in the Philippines last month ordered more than 24 million people in the capital and four neighbouring provinces to stay home unless they are essential workers.
A week after lockdown was imposed, 70-80 percent of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients were full, while ICU beds were “almost 100 percent” occupied in most of the capital, Health Undersecretary Maria Vergeire said.
“It’s a dire situation – it is the worst nightmare of a hospital manager happening in reality,” said Jaime Almora, president of the Philippine Hospital Association.
Leland Ustare, an anaesthesiologist at St Luke’s Medical Center, said some patients were spending days in the emergency room waiting for an intensive care bed. “This time is even worse than last year,” Ustare said, referring to the first few months of the pandemic. The numbers are really worse.”
AFP report that the government is distributing modular tents to struggling hospitals and re-deploying health workers from regions where virus transmission rates are low. Isolation facilities were being expanded to include schools and hotel rooms for mild cases in an effort to ease the burden and stop the virus spreading in crowded households.
Almora said the problem in hospitals was a lack of health workers, not beds. “The hospitals have the capacity, they have the beds, but they cannot expand their capability because of the manpower problem,” he said.
Some nurses have resigned out of fear of catching the virus or gone abroad to work in hospitals where the risks were the same but the pay higher, he said. Government insurance restrictions on copayments was also deterring smaller facilities from accepting Covid-19 patients, Almora added.
The country’s caseload of more than 828,000 – the second highest in Southeast Asia – is expected to top a million before the end of April. President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government has been under fire over its handling of the pandemic and vaccine rollout, warned last week of “bleak months” ahead.