DOH to order public hospitals allocate up to 70 percent of beds for COVID-19 patients should need arise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 22) — Amid complaints of understaffing, public hospitals will be directed to increase the beds they allocate for COVID-19 patients when there is a surge of infections, a Department of Health official said Wednesday.

“I-a-amend natin ang ating policy,” Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters in a media forum, noting that public hospitals “will be mandated” to increase their bed allocation for COVID-19 patients to 70 percent when the need arises, from the previous 30 percent.

[Translation: We will amend our policy.]

“Pag-nag-surge, pwede mag-increase to 50%. Pag kailangan parin, they may increase to 70% of their bed capacity,” Vergeire added.

[Translation: If there is a surge, the allocation could increase to 50 percent. If there need to raise it further, they may increase it up to 70 percent.]

Meanwhile, private hospitals will only have to reserve 20 percent of their total beds for COVID-19 patients, but this could be raised to 30% when there is a surge in the number of cases, Vergeire said. At present, private facilities are required to reserve 30 percent of their beds for coronavirus patients.

Vergeire said they are looking to provide incentives for private healthcare providers so they could comply with the required allotment. Private hospitals have said they were having a hard time allocating 30 percent of their total beds for COVID-19 patients.

"There are other things we are working on with other agencies so we can further incentivize our private hospitals para gawin nila ang (they could do the) expansion for COVID-19 patients," she said, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jaime Almora, president of the Philippine Hospital Association said this may still be a difficult request due to lack of nurses, and shortage of personal protective equipment.

But Almora told CNN Philippines that if the government hospitals can no longer handle the influx of patients, then private hospitals will accept more patients.

“’Di naman kami aatras kung talagang overwhelmed na ang hospital, trabaho namin proteksyunan sila,” he said.

[We are not going to back down if a government hospital is already overwhelmed as it is our job to protect the patients.]

DOH has said they are looking into complaints that some hospitals are understaffed. A nurse from state-run San Lazaro Hospital earlier told CNN Philippines that some of them who have been exposed to COVID-19 patients cannot afford to go through quarantine due to shortage of relievers.

“After our swab test, we even have to report to duty the next day while waiting for our results,” Jaymmee de Guzman said, as she noted “the alarming rise of employees getting infected.”

In response, the DOH said that they are exerting efforts to hire additional medical personnel who will be deployed in healthcare institutions amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Philippines’ COVID-19 cases have breached the 72,000 mark, with Metro Manila having the most number of infections.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report