‘Full capacity everywhere’: Manila hospitals struggle as virus surges

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This photograph taken on April 6, 2021, reveals a relative carrying private protecting gear attending to a member of the family with COVID-19 at a makeshift ward in a hospital in Manila. – More contagious variants of the coronavirus have been blamed for a file surge in infections in Metro Manila that has overwhelmed hospitals and despatched the nationwide capital area into lockdown. (Photo by JAM STA ROSA / AFP)


MANILA, Philippines — Angelo Barrera’s father struggled to breathe from COVID-19 as he was pushed across the Philippine capital seeking a hospital mattress. After 5 hours he obtained on a waitlist however died earlier than he might get inside.

More contagious variants of the coronavirus have been blamed for a file surge in infections in Metro Manila that has overstretched hospitals and despatched the nationwide capital area into lockdown.

Long queues at emergency rooms have pressured folks to drive from one well being facility to the subsequent seeking remedy, in a state of affairs described by a hospital official as a “nightmare”.

“They went to eight hospitals physically — it was full capacity everywhere,” mentioned Barrera, who known as an extra 20 medical facilities throughout his father’s ordeal final month.

The 61-year-old pastor, who had no pre-existing situations, immediately collapsed after struggling gentle signs of the illness for about 10 days.

“Admission was full, ER was full and even the waitlist for the ER was full. Some hospitals had told us they had 40 patients waiting to get into the ER,” mentioned Barrera.

Eventually, at round 4:00 am, a big personal hospital added him to its waitlist for the intensive care unit.

He was on a stretcher and hooked as much as an oxygen tank within the affected person drop-off space exterior the packed emergency room when he died, mentioned Barrera, who declined to call his father.

“Even though we know the ICU isn’t miraculously going to save him it was still our best shot.”

A COVID-19 referral hotline arrange in the course of the pandemic to direct the sick to the suitable hospital has been swamped, unable to deal with the tons of of calls a day to the service.

Many have turned to social media to crowdsource information on amenities nonetheless accepting sufferers — and vent their frustration on the hospital bottlenecks.

“We called 48 hospitals in & around Metro Manila for a friend; her oxygen is at 75%,” Laurel Flores Fantauzzo tweeted on March 31.

“All are full. Many won’t add to waitlists. I wish there were field hospitals. Medical ships. Transformed stadiums. We’ll pay whatever to save her but the infrastructure doesn’t exist. Help, please.”

‘Dire situation’

In a bid to sluggish the unfold of the virus and decongest hospitals, authorities final month ordered greater than 24 million folks within the capital and 4 neighboring provinces to remain residence except they’re important staff.

Every week after the lockdown was imposed, 70-80 % of hospital beds for COVID-19 sufferers have been full, whereas ICU beds have been “almost 100 percent” occupied in many of the capital, Health Undersecretary Maria Vergeire mentioned.

“It’s a dire situation — it is the worst nightmare of a hospital manager happening in reality,” mentioned Jaime Almora, president of the Philippine Hospital Association.

Leland Ustare, an anesthesiologist at St Luke’s Medical Center, mentioned some sufferers have been spending days within the emergency room ready for an intensive care mattress.

“This time is even worse than last year,” Ustare mentioned, referring to the primary few months of the pandemic.

“The numbers are really worse.”

The authorities is distributing modular tents to struggling hospitals and re-deploying well being staff from areas the place virus transmission charges are low.

Isolation amenities have been being expanded to incorporate faculties and resort rooms for gentle circumstances in an effort to ease the burden and cease the virus from spreading in crowded households.

The World Health Organization warned hospitals have been nearing a “red line” the place demand exceeded healthcare capacity.

“It’s very, very important to avoid crossing this red line,” mentioned Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

‘Bleak months ahead’

Almora mentioned the issue in hospitals was a scarcity of well being staff, not beds.

“The hospitals have the capacity, they have the beds, but they cannot expand their capability because of the manpower problem,” he mentioned.

Some nurses have resigned out of concern of catching the virus or gone overseas to work in hospitals the place the dangers have been the identical however the pay greater, he mentioned.

Government insurance coverage restrictions on copayments have been additionally deterring smaller amenities from accepting COVID-19 sufferers, Almora added.

President Rodrigo Duterte, whose authorities has been underneath hearth over its dealing with of the pandemic and vaccine rollout, warned final week of “bleak months” forward.

The nation’s caseload of greater than 828,000 — the second-highest in Southeast Asia — was anticipated to prime one million earlier than the top of April.

Amid the rising panic, some lawmakers and docs are pushing for the anti-parasite drug ivermectin — touted by some on social media as a COVID-19 “miracle cure” — to be accepted for widespread use.

The WHO says ivermectin ought to solely be used as a COVID-19 remedy in scientific trials, citing “inconclusive” proof.

Unemployed resort employee Rodell Nazario mentioned his 46-year-old spouse handed away final month after ready two days at residence for hospital admission.

As her situation worsened he piled her right into a taxi, however she was useless by the point they reached the emergency room.

“The cases would not have ballooned if they (the government) were doing the right thing,” mentioned Nazario.

“They locked down but then they allowed the people to go out again.”


For extra information in regards to the novel coronavirus click on here.

What you need to know about Coronavirus.

For extra information on COVID-19, name the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 native 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation helps our healthcare frontliners and continues to be accepting money donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) present account #007960018860 or donate via PayMaya utilizing this link .

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