PGH, Jose Rodriguez Memorial designated as exclusive COVID-19 hospitals – Health dept.

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 20)— The Health department said Friday it has designated two medical facilities in Metro Manila that will exclusively cater to COVID-19 patients.

In a statement, the agency said the Philippine General Hospital in Manila and the the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City will soon be equipped as COVID-exclusive centers, with the hospitals "transitioning their services" for the planned move.

DOH said the state-owned PGH has begun "ceasing admission for non-emergency cases" to free up some rooms.

The department said the Lung Center of the Philippines will also dedicate one wing (with 40 beds) specifically for COVID-19 patients.

"Because (Lung Center) is the referral hospital for patients with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and lung cancer, care must be taken not to expose these immunocompromised patients," DOH said.

A group of private hospitals earlier urged the government to assign other medical facilities for exclusive COVID-19 treatment, saying that their members' manpower and medical equipment are being depleted.

The hospitals said they are running short of personal protective equipment, while intensive care units are getting full. They have also turned regular rooms into isolation areas.

Health Undersecretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire, in response, said the move will help decongest other medical centers— and will prevent a "mix of patients."

In a span of days, the Philippines has seen a rapid spike in COVID-19 cases, with a total of 217 as of Thursday afternoon. Majority of the cases were recorded in Luzon, which has been placed under "enhanced" community quarantine to help curb the spread of the disease.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected more than 240,000 individuals in 160 different countries including China, where the mysterious virus first spread. Over 9,800 deaths have also been recorded worldwide, 17 of them in the country.

CNN Philippines' Carolyn Bonquin and Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.