Patient gets COVID treatment inside car pending hospital admission

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — Even outdoor tents intended for COVID-19 patients awaiting hospital admission are now filling up, so this quick-thinking doctor converted a car into a makeshift isolation room.

A 66-year-old woman suffering from low oxygen levels had to be treated inside the family's sedan outside the emergency room of a private hospital in Dasmariñas, Cavite since Saturday dawn.

Doctor Jamie Amposta had to improvise in giving emergency treatment to the patient, whose oxygen level dipped to 70% from a healthy range of 95% or higher.

The result: she and her team brought out a towering oxygen tank and built temporary IV fluid stands using tubes and medical tape to stabilize the patient.

"I guess kasi 'pag doctor ka, 'pag nandyan talaga 'yung need, your adrenaline will just rush up and keep up with the need," Amposta told CNN Philippines.

"For me, it’s really mentally tormenting kasi doktor ako pero hindi na ako makapanggamot at this point kasi 'yung laging dahilan, wala nang paglalagyan –– which is totoo din naman," she added.

[Translation: I guess when you're a doctor and there's a need, your adrenaline will just rush up and keep up with the need. For me, it’s really mentally tormenting because I'm a doctor and I can no longer heal at this point because of the reason that we cannot accommodate more patients –– which is also true.]

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Amposta has been an ER doctor for six years now, but she said this is the first time their facility was flooded with patients.

She explained that the hospital is relatively small and can only accommodate up to eight COVID-19 patients at a time. When the elderly woman was brought in by her family, even the four tents set up for patients outside were already full.

Amposta said she had a thorough discussion with the patient's family before they agreed to the set-up. It was only a day later when she was transferred to the tent – still not under admission.

But staying inside the family car did not mean a discount on the medical bill. Since the woman is not yet officially admitted, she is charged the hourly rate at the emergency room. It’s been three days and counting.

Lawmakers are demanding a change in PhilHealth rules as the current system does not provide insurance coverage to patients treated in makeshift health facilities like the tent or a car. Currently, the benefits are only extended to patients confined in hospitals or those staying in accredited community isolation centers.

"UHC (Universal Health Care) law mandates that all Filipinos are covered and can avail of PhilHealth! They might be violating the law," Senate President Tito Sotto said when sought for comment.

Six other senators said the agency is being unreasonable.

"Obvious bang kabulastugan 'yun? Hindi katanggap-tanggap [Isn't it obviously absurd? It's unacceptable," Sen. Imee Marcos added. "They need to cover it. They just have to find a way."

PhilHealth Spokesperson Rey Baleña said in a statement that patients in tents receiving in-patient care services should be covered by COVID-19 packages, adding that rules are being enhanced to accommodate such arrangements.

RELATED: PhilHealth to probe alleged overcharging of patients in tents

With an average of 10,000 new cases per day, Amposta said she fears more deaths are inevitable as the health system is overwhelmed.

Her nifty contraption took her patient out of a dangerous situation, but not everyone may be able to surpass such an ordeal.

"I’m devastated as a doctor kasi it’s so hard for me to see patients gasping for air and wala akong magawa [I can't do anything]," Amposta said. "This is not something I would suggest at all, pero if it's one way to save one more life, I would have done it again."