PH healthcare capacity approaching 'moderate risk' — DOH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — While the healthcare utilization rate remains low, hospitals in the Philippines are already feeling the rise in new COVID-19 infections, treatment czar Leopoldo Vega said Monday.

Vega, who is a health undersecretary, added the bed occupancy rate has been "steadily increasing" compared to the situation two weeks ago.

"However, the total healthcare utilization rate is still low but already approaching moderate risk, especially on intensive care units," he told CNN Philippines' New Day.

Philippine Hospital Association President Dr. Jaime Almora also told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word that COVID-19 referral hospitals are nearing moderate risk, while others not classified as such still have enough capacity.

Based on the DOH monitoring bulletin, a hospital is considered at moderate risk if its utilization rate is from 60% to less than 70%. A high-risk classification means the occupancy rate is between 70% to less than 85%, while a locality is at a critical level if its occupancy rate is 85% and above.

On Sunday, the Philippines recorded 8,735 new cases—the third consecutive day to hit the 8,000 mark.

Active cases also reached 63,646, the highest since May 7, the DOH said.

In anticipation of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila, the Department of Health announced that the intensive care unit (ICU) capacity of four big hospitals in the region will be increased.

DOH Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said that a total of 240 additional ICU beds will be set up at the Lung Center of the Philippines, East Avenue Medical Center, National Center for Mental Health and Quirino Memorial Medical Center.

Vergeire added the national healthcare utilization rate is at 50% and noted that Metro Manila and other regions are showing signs of increasing utilization rates.

The DOH also prepositioned additional oxygen tasks and medicines amid the threat of Delta variant.

Imposing a hard lockdown in Metro Manila and in other parts of the country with high numbers of new infections is imperative to ease pressure on hospitals amid the threat of the Delta variant, Vega said.

READ: NCR experiencing 'serious surge' of COVID-19 cases, community transmission of Delta possible — OCTA

"If we are not going to limit mobility, there might be possible surge and it can possibly overwhelm hospitals," he said.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante also emphasized that decreasing mobility significantly lessen virus transmissions and COVID-19 cases as seen in previous lockdowns imposed in Metro Manila.

Solante added the country's present healthcare system is more ready to fight COVID-19 and its variants of concern like Delta due to increased hospital bed and isolation facility capacity.

"Mas mataas ang paghahanda natin ngayon kumpara last year. 'Yan ay magiging walang kahulugan kung mas marami ang pasyente na hindi kaya ma-accommodate sa ating mga hospitals," Solante told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon.

[Translation: We are more prepared now than last year. But these efforts will all be in vain if more patients cannot be accommodated in our hospitals.]

Solante urged the people to strictly follow minimum public health standards especially when going outdoors. He also called everyone to get inoculated as vaccines reduce the chances of getting infected with the Delta variant and cause milder manifestations to those who contracted the virus.

The National Capital Region will be put under enhanced community quarantine starting August 6 to 20. The two-week period will be used to inoculate more Filipinos, Vega said.

CNN Philippines correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.