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AFP, PNP Medical Corps To Assist Private Hospitals

AFP, PNP Medical Corps To Assist Private Hospitals
Clad in personal protective equipment, health workers attend to COVID-19 patients inside the chapel of Quezon City General Hospital on Aug. 2, 2021. Medical facilities are now being overwhelmed as the number of coronavirus infections continues to surge. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

President Duterte has ordered the military and the police to provide medical personnel to hospitals experiencing lack of manpower as the country wrestles with rising COVID-19 infections.

In his talk to the nation aired on Wednesday, Sept. 22, Duterte ordered Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to place military medical practitioners “on deck.”

“I am ordering the medical corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police... if you are listening to me now... please place your human resources... on ready, on deck because I can really rely on you,” the President said, adding that many private and public hospitals in Metro Manila already reached full capacity.

Duterte reported that many healthcare workers are currently quarantined: 168 from St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC), 60 from Cardinal Santos Medical Center, 55 from University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center, 84 from The Medical City and 33 from Philippine Heart Center.

SLMC hospitals in Quezon City and Taguig City remained at full capacity, with an emergency room (ER) and intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy of 175%, SLMC president and chief executive officer Dr. Arturo dela Peña said on Thursday, Sept. 23. As patients continue to wait to be admitted, SLMC urged the public to consider bringing their patients to other hospitals.

In response, Lorenzana said they already provided two nurses to SLMC and expressed readiness to deploy more, while AFP spokesperson Ramon Zagala confirmed they are “still in the planning process” on the matter.

“Our services, from Army, Navy and Air Force, would continue to gather from the provinces so they could give nurses as well. In the coming days, I think we would be able to lend more nurses to hospitals in Metro Manila,” Lorenzana added.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar gave assurance the PNP’s doctors, nurses and medical technicians are ready to become part of the augmentation force in hospitals.

“If needed, we can always assist our medical healthcare workers,” Eleazar said, noting that the PNP’s medical reserve force has joined the vaccination teams of local government units.

The PNP chief likewise ensured that PNP medical workforce members currently taking care of COVID-positive uniformed and civilian personnel will not be pulled out.

As of Wednesday night, the PNP reported a total of 38,788 COVID cases within their over 200,000-strong ranks – with 36,383 recoveries, 114 deaths and 2,291 active cases.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government is continuously recruiting healthcare workers to ensure that hospitals would have enough personnel who will tend to COVID-19 patients.

As of Sept. 22, 77% of ICU beds, 62% of isolation beds, 71% of ward beds, and 63% of ventilators are in use in Metro Manila. For the entire Philippines, the utilization rate is 78% for ICU beds, 67% for isolation beds, 72% for ward beds, and 57% for ventilators.

Baguio, Abra, Bohol under GCQ with heightened restrictions

The government's pandemic task force has placed Baguio City and the provinces of Abra and Bohol under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions while Ilocos Norte under a regular GCQ, Malacañang announced on Thursday night.

Roque said the updated risk-level classifications would take effect starting today, Sept. 24, and would last until the end of the month.

Abra and Baguio City used to be under GCQ while Bohol was initially under the most relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ). Ilocos Norte, meanwhile, was previously placed under GCQ with heightened restrictions.

Under GCQ with heightened restrictions, indoor dine-in services may operate at 20% venue or seating capacity while al-fresco or outdoor dine-in services are allowed up to half of the venue or seating capacity. Beauty salons, beauty parlors, barbershops, and nail spas may operate up to 30% venue or seating capacity. Outdoor tourist attractions will be allowed at 30% venue capacity with strict compliance with minimum public health standards.

Business establishments with safety seal certifications will be allowed to operate at an additional 10 percentage points beyond the permitted on-site or venue capacity. However, meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions events and social events in venue establishments will be prohibited. Indoor sports courts and venues and indoor tourist attractions will also not be allowed to operate.

Specialized markets of the tourism department like staycations without age restrictions will be required to follow the protocols imposed by the agency. For in-person religious gatherings, up to 10% of the venue capacity may be filled up. Local governments, however, may increase the allowed venue capacity to 30%. Gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals will be allowed but only immediate family members can attend.

Interzonal travel will be allowed subject to restrictions of the local government of the destination. Point-to-point travel to areas under GCQ and MGCQ will be permitted without age restrictions but subject to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR test-before-travel requirement for those below 18 years old and above 65, and other restrictions as may be imposed by the tourism department and local governments. – With Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Ghio Ong