THE Department of Health yesterday said the Philippine healthcare utilization rate is nearing the moderate-risk classification as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.
Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the country’s treatment czar explained that healthcare utilization rate refers to the occupancy of isolation, ward, and intensive care unit beds and mechanical ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
“As the number of cases has been steadily increasing, there are new hotspots all over the country… The total healthcare utilization of the Philippines is almost in the threshold of the moderate risk,” he said in a television interview.
Vega said these hotspots were Metro Manila, Region 1, 3, 6, 7, and 10. Particular areas he flagged were Laoag, Pampanga, and Bulacan over a “steady” increase in COVID-19 cases.
He added that in Mindanao, cases seem to have plateaued but remained “considerably high.”
Data from the DOH showed that 68% of ICU beds, 57% of isolation beds, 58% of wards beds, and 48% of mechanical ventilators for COVID-19 patients were in use as of Aug. 10.
Vega also said the HCUR of Metro Manila has been classified as moderate-risk, with around 58% to 60% of over 9,000 COVID-19 beds in the capital region occupied.
“If you disaggregate this, the ICU will have a higher number in terms of the utilization, which means that this is already in the 70+ [percent] or high-risk position in some of the areas,” he added.
In a separate briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the four districts in Metro Manila have logged the following hospital bed and ICU utilization rates:
District 1 (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela) – 48% healthcare utilization; 40% ICU utilization
District 2 (Marikina, Pasig, Pateros, Quezon City, Taguig) – 69% healthcare utilization; 78% ICU utilization
District 3 (Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, San Juan) – 48% healthcare utilization; 61% ICU utilization
District 4 (Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay) – 62% healthcare utilization; 75% ICU utilization
Vergeire added that 41 areas nationwide are under Alert Level 4, meaning they are at moderate to critical risk and have a healthcare utilization rate higher than 70%, but did not specify which areas.
She also disclosed that projections showed that the Philippines’ healthcare system will be able to cope with an increase in COVID-19 infections if only severe and critical cases will be admitted to hospitals.
“The consideration in this projection, the assumption, would be that severe and critical [cases] would occupy hospitals. Nung pinakita ‘yung sa NCR, kung tayo ay magtutuloy dito sa two weeks na lockdown tapos magtutuloy tayo into MECQ, naipakita nila dito na ‘yung ating current capacity ay maghuhusto kung severe and critical lang ang ipapasok natin dito sa ating mga ospital,” the DOH official added.
The DOH has long been urging hospitals to admit only severe and critical cases.
“Napakaimportante po ngayon na talagang atin pong maipatupad ito pong ating navigation of patients so that we will be able to refer them to appropriate facilities, hindi mapuno kaagad ang ating ospital with mild and asymptomatic patients,” Vergeire said.
She urged mild and asymptomatic COVID-19 patients to proceed to temporary treatment and monitoring facilities instead, adding that some hotels have been converted into COVID-19 facilities for a more comfortable isolation period.
The country has logged over 1.68 million COVID-19 cases with 1.57 million recoveries and 29,220 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon.