ICU capacity in Metro Manila at moderate risk, Cordillera in danger zone

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — The bed capacity in intensive care units in some regions are dwindling as the country experiences a surge in new coronavirus infections a year into the pandemic, a health official said on Monday.

Dr. Beverly Ho, Health Promotion Bureau and Disease Prevention and Control Bureau Director IV, said although the healthcare utilization rate nationwide remains at low risk at 35%, the ICU capacity in Metro Manila and Cordillera Administrative Region are at moderate level and danger zone, respectively.

The capacity for ICU beds in Metro Manila, the virus epicenter since Day 1, is at 65% while 38% of the mechanical ventilators are being used by patients with severe COVID-19. The utilization of ICU beds in Cordillera, where local transmission of the more transmissible United Kingdom variant was detected, is at 71%.

Meanwhile, the use of ICU rooms in Central Visayas and Davao Region are also going up, but they remain in the safe zone.

"Iba ang mix per region but the takeaway is similar, we cannot just be complacent about the numbers now because the ICU beds are slowly being filled up," Ho said in a media briefing. "Habang lumalaki ang total number of cases natin, inevitably, malaki ang number na mapupunta sa ICU."

[Translation: There are different figures per region, but the takeaway is similar. We cannot be complacent about the numbers now because the ICU beds are slowly being filled up. As our cases rise, inevitably, a big portion will go to the ICU.]

The Philippine General Hospital is seeing this grim trend as more COVID-19 patients with severe health conditions are being admitted, some of them needing intubation to help them breathe. There are 134 COVID-19 patients currently admitted in the government hospital, 30 of which have severe symptoms. PGH spokesperson Jonas del Rosario on Monday said they are seeing more severe COVID-19 cases compared to last year.

Private hospitals are dealing with the increase in COVID-19 patients. St. Luke's Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Benjamin Campomanes, Jr. told CNN Philippines’ News. PH that all their beds for COVID-19 patients, in both Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City branches, are occupied. He noted they still accept walk-in patients, but reminded them that they need to wait patiently before they can be accommodated.

Filipino Nurses United President Maristela Abenojar said healthcare workers are worried that the rapid and steep increase of COVID-19 cases could further push hospitals and healthcare workers to their limits. They are calling on the government to act accordingly, especially in responding to the more transmissible and possibly immune response-affecting variants.

"Panay pa din ang nagkakasakit sa amin. Tayo ay nag-first anniversary na ng lockdown at wala tayong nakikitang sapat na pag-angkop sa sitwasyon tulad ng pagpasok ng variants," she said.

[Translation: There are still many nurses getting sick. We are on the first year of the lockdown and we still do not see enough response, such as with the entry of the variants.]

OCTA Research Group projected that COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila may reach 6,000 cases daily by month-end and 8,000 daily nationwide by the end of the month, warning the pandemic is progressing much faster now despite being one-year into the nationwide lockdown.

CNN Philippines correspondent Carolyn Bonquin contributed to this report.