Solon calls for ‘pandemic-ready’ PH

A MINDANAOAN solon asked the national government to start enhancing the healthcare facilities throughout the country following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman proposed that all hospitals must be upgraded from level 1 to level 2 or 3.

"We may not be 'pandemic-proof,' but we can make sure that we are 'pandemic-capable,” Hataman said adding that the Philippines should now be adapting to the changing times and prepare for a long-drawn bout against the COVID-19 virus.

"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," Hataman added.

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.

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 pediatricians and gynecologists. 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.

According to DOH figures released in 2018, a total of 783 hospitals, or 64 percent of all facilities, are Level 1 hospitals. Collectively, they have 32,144 beds that make up 32 percent of all beds in Philippine hospitals. By contrast, Level 2 and Level 3 hospitals number 318 and 122, respectively, comprising 26 percent and 10 percent of all hospitals, respectively.

They make up only 36 percent 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.