Covid still hitting P’pine healthcare hard
Published on: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
By: ManilaStandard, Cebu Daily News, Inquirer
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Health workers during a rally outside a hospital in metropolitan Manila, demanding the government ensure their safety and raise their pay amid to the coronavirus threat. (AP)
MANILA: 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.

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 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.

In Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, several medical frontliner volunteers assigned to different vaccination sites here have already refused to lend their help in the ongoing vaccination rollout.

This is after the city has no longer provided them food packs for their meals.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan explained that this happened as the city’s Covid-19 response budget has already dried up since September 10.

Chan has already asked the city council for additional funds through Supplemental Budget (SB) no. 3, but such a proposal has not been approved yet.

“Kita, naningkamot gyud nga makahatag ta nila sa ilang pagkaon kay mao raman gyud nay paagi sa ilang pag-volunteer, wala mana sila’y bayad. So, pagkaon ra gyud atong gi-provide sa ilaha,” Chan said.

Due to this, Chan continues to appeal to the city council to approve SB no. 3 worth P81 million. Included in the budget is the P45 million allocated for Covid-19 response.

The council has deferred the approval of SB no. 3, due to some questionable items in the liquidation of Covid-19 related expenditures.

Lawyer James Sayson, deputy chief for the Local Vaccination Operations Center (LVOC), revealed that at the moment, their vaccination sites have more than a hundred volunteers.

And a government-run hospital in Bangui town, Ilocos Norte is temporarily limiting its services due to the shortage of doctors.

In a public advisory, Bangui District Hospital said its emergency room would temporarily cater to life-threatening conditions, imminent delivery of pregnant women, and trauma cases.

Other patients were advised to seek treatment at the nearest health centre in their villages or avail themselves of online consultation. 


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