By Joseph Almer Pedrajas, Minka Klaudia Tiangco, and Marjaleen Ramos
Another doctor, a cardiology “pillar” at the Philippine Heart Center, has succumbed to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) revealed on Tuesday.
In a Facebook statement, the PHA said, “It is with profound sadness that we announce the loss of one of the great pillars of Cardiology, PHA Past President Dr. Raul Diaz Jara.
He was a great father, teacher, mentor, poet, author, singer, colleague, friend.” The PHA told the Manila Bulletin that, “the general knowledge is that he succumbed to COVID and it is suspected he got it from a pa – tient who denied travel history.”
Philippines Heart Center Executive Director Dr. Joel Abanilla in an interview over DZBB said Jara was at home when he felt the symptoms and voluntarily admitted himself to the hospital so as not to infect other members of his household. “We deeply mourn for your loss but we want this more to be a celebration of your life.
Philippine Cardiology will not be the same without you,” PHA added.
Another statement posted on the PHA Facebook page which appears to be from Jara’s family said, “Papa is a tower of strength and leadership… He knew the extensive battle he was facing and he kept on fighting.” The family said it is “grateful for Philippine Heart Center’s doctors, nurses, and staff who took care of him and have gone way and beyond their call of duty…” Jara’s son, Paolo is calling for donations of personal protective equipment for medical workers in the country.
He is also calling for the setting up of a “dedicated site” for COVID-19 and “organize mass testing.” Abanilla said at least six doctors at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) already tested positive for COVID-19 including Drs. Jara and Israel Bactol, who had earlier succumbed to the disease.
“The others are relatively doing well,” Abanilla told DZBB. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has already exceeded 500, the Department of Health (DOH) reported Tuesday morning.
In a text message, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there are now 501 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 in the country, while the death toll remains at 33.
The number of patients who already recovered stood at 19, added Vergeire. Vergeire, in a press briefing on Sunday, said the public should expect that the number of confirmed cases will increase in the coming days due to the increased testing capacity.
The health official said DOH is currently detecting more cases because of the availability of testing kits and that other sub-national laboratories have begun testing samples aside from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
130 beds at PGH Meanwhile, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) will now be a COVID-19 referral center fol – lowing a request from the DOH. PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi said they have already been preparing over the weekend and have chosen a place in the hospital that will be exclusively for COVID-19 patients.
Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III identified PGH, Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City, and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City as possible institu – tions to serve as COVID-19 referral centers.
“The stakeholders agreed that one of the solutions to this com – plex problem was to organize the hospitals in a manner that will rationalize the clinical approach and the utilization of resources, in order to equip and enable the designated referral centers for a potentially protracted battle,” PGH said in a statement.
PGH has committed 130 beds but Legaspi said this can still in – crease depending on the number of patients. Admission to the referral center will initially be limited to persons under investigation (PUIs) in critical condition or at high risk of deterioration, including senior citizens and/or those with underlying conditions.
Eventually, only confirmed COVID-19 patients will be sent to the referral center, while PUIs with mild symptoms will be triaged at their local health units and will be placed under quarantine. Legaspi assured that essential facilities in the hospital, such as the Cancer Institute Building and the emergency room, will remain open to patients.
Hospitals in Metro Manila are dealing with a rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases, depleted workforces due to hospital staff going on quarantine, and a global shortage of protective personal equipment (PPE) amid the pandemic.