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DOH: Hospitals Must Report Suspect, Probable COVID-19 Cases; Alternatives To Scarce Treatment Drug Sought

DOH: Hospitals Must Report Suspect, Probable COVID-19 Cases; Alternatives To Scarce Treatment Drug Sought
A health worker leans on an ambulance as he pauses to catch his breath after helping transport a COVID-19 patient to the Bulacan Medical Center in Malolos City on Aug. 19, 2021. Photo by Boy Santos, The Philippine STAR

Hospitals handling COVID-19 cases should now report even the suspect and probable cases in order to have an accurate picture of the situation in the health facilities, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday, Sept. 4.

At a public briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said there is a “disconnect” in the data of COVID-19 cases that they get from hospitals.

“There is this kind of disconnect because our hospitals are submitting data on confirmed positive individuals,” she noted.

On Friday, Sept. 3, the Health Professional Alliance against COVID-19 sounded the alarm over hospitals which are now overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

The group pointed out that the COVID-19 data of the DOH on health care utilization rate (HCUR) do not reflect what is really happening in the community and hospitals.

Vergeire said to get an accurate HCUR, hospitals should now include in their reports even the suspect and probable cases of COVID-19 admitted in their facilities.

“Those suspect, and probably cases that are confined, are not (efficiently) included in the count. So, we are trying to coordinate now with our hospitals so that they will also report to us suspect and probable cases,” she added.

Based on the Sept. 3 bulletin of the DOH for COVID-19 cases, the national HCUR rates range from 56% to 72%.

HCUR pertains to the utilization rate of intensive care unit beds, isolation beds and ward beds, and usage rate of ventilators at the COVID-19 wards.

Read more: Alarm Sounded As Hospitals Now Overwhelmed; Doctors Brace For The Worst

For the two days in a row, more than 20,000 new COVID cases were reported by the DOH.

Based on the DOH’s case bulletin, there were 20,741 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the second single-day tally logged in the country.

Last Friday, the DOH documented  20,310 cases.

“All (laboratories) were operational on Sept. 2 while five laboratories were not able to submit their data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System (CDRS),” the DOH said.

Currently, there are already a total of 2,061,084 COVID-19 cases reported nationwide.

The DOH said there were 189 new deaths bringing the number of fatalities to 34,062 cases.

On the other hand,  21,962 COVID-19 patients recovered, raising the number of survivors to 1,869,376.

The DOH added there  were 157,646 active cases, representing 7.6 of the overall tally.


The shortage in tocilizumab, an off-label drug used to treat COVID-19 patients, will last until December so the government is now looking for alternatives, the DOH said on Saturday.

Vergeire said the DOH was already informed of the shortage by Roche Phils., the local manufacturer of tocilizumab.

“We had a discussion with the manufacturer Roche Philippines and they already gave us the declaration until the end of the year, it seems, we’ll be having a hard time accessing these drugs,” she said.

Vergeire said the shortage is felt not only in the Philippines but around the globe due to the rising cases of COVID-19.

The DOH is now looking for other “re-purposed drugs” that can be used as an alternative to tocilizumab.

“We are looking for investigational drugs from other sources. Currently, some hospitals are using baricitinib drugs for their COVID-19 patients,” Vergeire said.

She said the DOH is also talking to the private sector and “hopefully in the coming weeks, they will be able to help us for this supply.”

Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), ordered a crackdown on the illegal online sale of tocilizumab.

Eleazar instructed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) to coordinate with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to address the issue.

He vowed to unmask the people behind the illicit sale of the in-demand drug which now fetches exorbitant prices.

“This is an exploitation of our countrymen direly in need in the middle of a pandemic and we won’t allow it,” Eleazar said in Filipino. – With Emmanuel Tupas