A MINDANAO House leader on Monday underscored the importance for the Department of Health (DoH) to start enhancing or modernizing the country’s healthcare facilities.
"We may not be 'pandemic-proof,' but we can make sure that we are 'pandemic-capable,” said House Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman as he urged the DoH to upgrade all Level 1 hospitals to Level 2 or 3.
Hataman asserted that the Philippines should now be adapting to the changing times and prepare for a long-drawn bout against the COVID-19 virus by enhancing and upgrading all of its hospitals and healthcare facilities to be better equipped in battling pandemics.
"All projections point to a rise in cases until the middle of the year, and experts say that a vaccine may be available after a year and a half. At hanggang hindi pa nakakahanap ng bakuna laban sa COVID-19, kailangan na nating palakasin ang ating mga frontlines by increasing their capabilities to treat patients with the virus in the future," said Hataman, former governor of the now-defunct ARMM, expressed.
"Dapat ay handa tayo sa isang pangmatagalang digmaan laban sa COVID-19. This disease has shocked the whole world and overwhelmed people and governments in every way possible. But if we plan for the worst, we will prevail. It is paramount, therefore, to upgrade our hospitals. Dahil kung magtatagal pa ito ng isa't kalahating taon pa, or mayroon pang ibang virus na darating, dapat ay nakahanda na tayo," Hataman further stated.
He asked the national government to hit the drawing boards and at the very least plan for the upgrade of all Level 1 hospitals to Level 2 to cater to cases of COVID-19, as the number of those infected continues to rise.
"Our hospitals are our frontlines and our healthcare workers are our frontliners in this war, but we cannot continue operating on the same level of health emergency response as we do now. It is just not sustainable, especially if our situation worsens or we see a sudden spike in the number of cases," Hataman said.
"If we can upgrade all these Level 1 hospitals and make them 'COVID-ready' in the immediate future, complete with the training of medical professionals, we increase our arsenal against this disease and any other pandemic that comes our way,” Hataman explained.
The Basilan legislator said that upgrading the country's Level 1 hospitals - the most basic of this kind of facility - to Levels 2 or 3 should now be a government priority and a good first step in enhancing the country's response to pandemics. A Level 1 hospital has no intensive care units (ICU) and only treats patients who need minor care. Right now, these hospitals cannot care for COVID-19 patients.
On the other hand, Level 2 hospitals have ICUs that can treat critically ill patients and have physicians for pediatric and gynecology. Level 3 hospitals have what Levels 1 and 2 possess, with the addition of high-level specialty intervention such as dialysis treatment.
"While our frontlines - the hospitals and other healthcare and LGU facilities - have their hands full with the rising number of COVID-19 cases, our government planners should be busy drawing up the blueprint for a 'pandemic-ready' Philippines. Kailangan na natin itong paghandaan habang lumalaban tayo sa sakit na ito," Hataman declared.
"Sa panahon na marami sa ating kababayan ang pinanghihinaan ng loob, gamitin natin itong oportunidad upang palakasin ang ating pagtugon sa mga ganitong pandemic. We should show our citizens that the government is in control and it is doing everything to bounce back from this global health crisis," he added.
As of this writing, there are now 7,579 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, 4,916 of which are in Metro Manila. A total of 501 deaths have been recorded, with 862 cases of recovery from the disease.
"Planners at the Department of Health should also be drafting a masterplan to ease our hospitals and healthcare facilities overwhelmed by the high number of COVID-19 cases, like gradually increasing the number of government hospitals handling patients with the disease and spreading them throughout. Ang mahalaga, may parallel efforts to plan ahead of this pandemic," he further explained.
According to DOH figures released in 2018, a total of 783 hospitals, or 64% of all facilities, are Level 1 hospitals. Collectively, they have 32,144 beds that make up 32% of all beds in Philippine hospitals. In contrast, Level 2 and Level 3 hospitals number 318 and 122, respectively, comprising 26% and 10% of all hospitals, also respectively.
They make up only 36% of all the hospitals in the country, but they are bigger and they offer more beds, at 30,781 and 38,763 respectively for Level 1 and Level 2 hospitals. However, the DOH data does not say anything about how many beds are there for each ICU facility.