Remembering the lack of hospital beds and health personnel during the COVID-19 surge in the country last March, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) on Sunday, July 25, urged the government to improve hospital capacity amid the threat of the Delta variant in the country.
“Ayaw natin mangyari iyong nakikita nating nangyayari sa Indonesia, India, at iba pang mga bansa (We do not want to happen here what we’re seeing in Indonesia, India, and other countries),” OVP spokesman Barry Gutierrez said during Vice President Leni Robredo’s radio show.
Gutierrez, a lawyer, welcomed the initiative of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to reimpose stricter restrictions in the National Capital Region Plus (NCR Plus) bubble that includes Metro Manila and four provinces—Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal.
“Pero ang inaasahan natin dito bukod diyan, sana pinalalakas din talaga iyong kapasidad ng ating mga hospital, mga clinic na mas tumanggap nang mas maraming pasyente (But what we’re expecting aside from that, we hope they also strengthen the capacities of the hospitals, clinics to accommodate more patients),” he said.
Robredo’s spokesman said that hospitals will need additional health personnel to get ready in case of another surge due to the highly transmissible and contagious Delta variant, which was first detected in India and is now the cause of the surges in Indonesia and Malaysia.
He also noted some complaints from private hospitals that PhilHealth has yet to pay their claims for COVID-19 patients who they handled. He cited the need for hospitals to pay their employees, cover for their expenses, and release the allowances of their medical frontliners.
“Lalo sa panahong ito dapat bayaran talaga ang mga hospital kasi baka mamaya, ito pa ‘yung maging dahilan hindi makapagpatuloy ng operasyon dahil nga hindi nababayaran sa mga serbisyong ginagawa nila (Especially at this time, we need to pay the hospitals because this might be the reason why they cannot continue operating because their services are not being paid),” Gutierrez said.
“Hindi pwede ang expectation lang natin sila lang ang bigay nang bigay. Grabe na ang binigay ng health sector (We cannot expect the health sector to just give and give. The health sector has given so much),” he added.
Nurse groups have been calling on the Department of Health (DOH) to release their hazard pay. Some of them have received a measly P100 for their work because the hazard pay only covers the amount of time they spend inside a COVID-19 patient’s room and not their full work shift.
To better prepare for the Delta variant, he also echoed Robredo’s call for a faster vaccination rollout to achieve herd immunity as most COVID-19 vaccines are proven effective against severe and critical symptoms of this virus strain.
The Philippines has more than 30 million vaccine doses and has inoculated about 15 million individuals—10.3 million first doses and 4.7 million fully vaccinated.
“Inaasahan natin na ginagawa iyong kailangan preparasyon (We expect that they are getting prepared),” Gutierrez said of the government’s efforts to curb the surge because of the Delta variant.
He recalled that in March, hospitals can no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients and many died at the hospital’s parking lot while waiting for an available bed.
“Hindi natin gusto maulit iyon (We do not like that to happen again),” Gutierrez said.
The viral load of the COVID-19 Delta variant is 1,260 times more than the other variants, making it 97 percent more transmissible. An infected person can infect as many as eight people in as fast as a five-to-10-second encounter.