The government is planning to boost the hospital capacity of National Capital Region Plus by creating 200 more intensive care unit (ICU) beds to accommodate more coronavirus patients.
According to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, some regular hospital rooms in government hospitals could be converted into intensive care units.
The latest plan shared by the Palace official comes after several hospitals in National Capital Region Plus offered to add 176 ICU beds and over 1,000 ward beds for coronavirus patients. The commitment was reportedly made after Philippine Health Insurance Corporation offered to make partial payment of the hospital claims.
“We are aiming to add in addition to the 176 na binolunteer na, additional 200 sana po pero this is at its early stage,” Roque said during a televised press briefing Thursday, April 22.
“Nasa survey stage pa lang kung ilang regular rooms ang pupuwedeng ma-convert to ICU (We’re at the survey stage on the number of regular rooms that can be converted to ICU),” he said.
Roque said they hope to finalize the planned conversion of regular hospital rooms into intensive care units in a week.
He acknowledged that improving the critical health care capacity was critical to lower the quarantine classification of NCR Plus and further reopen the economy. After a two-week strict lockdown, Metro Manila and four nearby provinces have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine until the end of the month to curb the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
“Talagang nakatutok po talaga tayo sa ICU beds ngayon dahil kapag napalawig natin, naparami natin ang ICU beds, kaya po nating magbukas nang mas malaki pa sa ating ekonomiya (We are focused on the ICU beds now because if we can increase the number of ICU beds, we can further reopen the economy),” Roque said.
On the commitment made by hospitals to increase ICU and ward beds, testing czar Vivencio Dizon said these units may be ready by May. He said the addition of hospital beds could bring down the critical care utilization rate in NCR Plus to around 70 percent.
As of April 21, 82 percent of around 700 ICU beds are being utilized in the National Capital Region amid the surge of coronavirus cases. At least 70 percent of the 2,200 ward beds in Metro Manila are also occupied.
Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the government’s action plan against COVID-19, also said the government was grateful for the commitment made by the hospitals to increase ICU and ward bed capacities in NCR Plus.
He admitted that it was not easy to create ICU facilities, citing the need to tap skilled health care professionals to these units.
“Hindi lang po iyan dagdag ng kama dahil kailangan po niyan, ang pinakaimportante ay iyong dagdag po ng mga skilled health care workers sa ICU (It’s not just simply adding a bed because the most important factor is increasing the skilled health care workers in the ICU),” he said.
“Iyan po ay pinagtutulung-tulungan ngayon ng gobyerno at ng pribadong sektor para makakuha tayo ng dagdag na personnel (That’s what the government and the private sector are working on so we can get additional personnel),” he said.