QUEZON CITY (12 AUGUST 2020)— As the nation continues its battle against the deadly COVID-19 disease, medical frontliners stationed in COVID-dedicated hospitals in Metro Manila have remained steadfast in their commitment to save lives despite the huge health and safety risks involved.
This was the observation made by National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 officials during their visits to the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (DJNRMH), and the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital on Wednesday to check the conditions of health personnel there and assess the capacity of the said facilities to handle COVID-19 cases.
National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., noted the invaluable role of the health workers in responding to the pandemic, as he inquired about their current conditions.
“Narito po kami to check up on your needs, and see how you are doing. Hospital administration and personnel are the most critical components of this war on COVID-19. Kung wala po kayo, we will not stand a fight,” Galvez said.
Answering the call
Medical staff of the Lung Center of the Philippines, which is considered one of the most capable facilities in managing COVID-19 patients due to its pulmonary expertise, did not hesitate in taking on the immense challenge, according to its Deputy Executive Director for Medical Services, Dr. Sullian Naval.
“Hindi po kami naghihinanakit that we were identified as a COVID-referral hospital. We looked at it as an opportunity to help more people and save lives,” Naval said.
At the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, doctors shared how they have learned to cope with the challenges of handling COVID-19 patients. One of them is Dr. Roxan Perez.
“If our patient is fighting, what more kaming health workers. The smile on our patients’ faces keeps us going,” Perez said.
The hospital now only caters to COVID-19 patients. Several of its buildings were repurposed so they can address the influx of cases, according to its medical center chief Dr. Alfonso Victorino Famaran, Jr..
“The four buildings housing the departments of pediatrics, surgery, diagnostics, and internal medicine are all dedicated to COVID-19 positive patients,” Famaran said.
Meanwhile, the UP-PGH has around 350 health care workers assigned to COVID cases, including 153 nurses and 150 doctors. PGH is considered as one of the leading hospitals in the country which provided medical services not only from Metro Manila but also from different parts of Luzon. PGH HCWs are properly motivated, managed, taken cared of and rotated to give some relief and time to rest.
The hospital has also approved and funded 15 COVID-related research, including a study on COVID prevalence among healthcare workers, use of convalescent plasma, and other treatment therapies according to UP-PGH medical center chief, Dr. Gerardo Legaspi.
“The lesson to take away from this experience is that this is not going to be the last pandemic,” Legaspi said.
To ensure the welfare of EAMC’s medical staff, the management is providing them with free transportation and lodging.
“We have rented out three hotels, used all our transportation resources for their going to and from the hospital, provided food, and used our seventh floor for their dormitory,” Nuñez said.
“If the (hospital) administration takes care of its people, there is no way that we will lose this fight (against COVID-19),” Galvez noted.
At the Lung Center, a safety protocol officer was assigned to design and implement safety measures at the hospital, which include zone designations, behavioral modification among personnel, and the strict wearing of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in orange zones (high-risk area) and red zones (COVID-19 area).
This measure resulted in the designation of a safety protocol officer per department at the hospital.
Dr. Ted Herbosa, NTF COVID-19 adviser, lauded the LCP for strictly observing the highest safety protocols.
“You have a very extensive program para ma-encourage even the security and the janitors how to handle this (safety protocols). Healthcare is a service. Very important that all personnel of the hospital are protected. We should watch out for each other para tuloy-tuloy ang laban hanggang mawala ang pandemic,” Herbosa said.
“Kailangan tayo ang pinakamagaling in terms of biosafety. We should set an example to the public,” Galvez added.
Preparing for the future
To address the surge of patients, the heads of the Lung Center of the Philippines suggested the conversion of the hospital’s isolation rooms into 12 Intensive Care Units (ICUs).
Health Undersecretary Dr. Leopoldo Vega explained that such an expansion entails a lot of challenges, which must be immediately addressed.
“We have the initial equipment for this, but the challenge here is the oxygen supply. ‘Pag naglagay ka ng ICU, tandem ‘yan with your source of oxygen,” Vega said.
He, however, noted the importance of the ICUs in strengthening the capacity of LCP in fighting the pandemic.
“Critical care is really the fulcrum of whether your case fatality rates will go down or not, so it’s a very important issue in terms of clinical management,” Vega said.
For his part, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs Martin Diño, expressed his optimism with the plans proposed by the medical facility.
“This is the right time na kumpletuhin natin ang Lung Center of the Philippines. Napakalaki ng lot area ninyo, and I support 101% ang mga development na gagawin dito,” Diño said.
Meanwhile, EAMC is set to inaugurate its new COVID-dedicated building on August 17, which will be named the Center for Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases (CERID).
The Department of Public Works and Highways, which is aiding EAMC in the construction, pledged to build more COVID-19 dedicated infrastructure.
“We would like to commit ourselves from day one until matapos po ang pandemic. Sama sama po tayo dito,” DPWH Undersecretary for Unified Project Management Office (UPMO) Operations and Technical Services Emil Sadain said.
At the UP-PGH, a 16-storey multi-specialty facility was set to begin construction this year, but is now being redesigned to deal with the pandemic.
Galvez expressed the government’s gratitude to the health frontliners, especially at this crucial time.
“On behalf of the NTF, I would like to thank you for your commitment and sacrifice. Kung ano ang pwedeng maitulong po ng national government agencies to help our healthworkers, we will try to provide and facilitate your critical needs,” he assured the personnel of the four hospitals.
During his Press Briefing with Presidential Spokesperson Sec. Harry Roque at Malacanang Palace today, Galvez emphasized the resiliency and dedication of the medical workers.
“Kahapon po ay bumisita ako sa Philippine General Hospital at saka po doon sa Lung Center at ito pong East Avenue at saka po doon sa Tala, doon sa Caloocan. Ito po ay tinitingnan po natin kung ano pong mga pangangailangan ng mga kasamahan po natin sa mga ospital at ako’y natutuwa po, akala ko po ay pumunta po kami doon para ma-inspire po sila pero kami po ang na-inspire dahil talaga pong ang ating mga doktor at ang ating mga nurses ay talagang dedicated po talaga sila na masugpo ito pong COVID-19,” he said.
“Kahit na po limang buwan na silang nagtatrabaho talagang nakita natin na halos hindi po natutulog sa paglaban po sa COVID-19 ay ipinakita po ng ating mga doktor dito sa ating mga public hospitals ang kanilang katapangan at ang kanilang kagitingan para sa paglaban po na ito. At kami po ay natutuwa, we are very happy na nakita po namin na talagang maganda po ang ginagawa ng ating mga ospital para sa paglaban po sa COVID-19,” Galvez said.###