Rappler reports strong consensus to counter DOH claims; sounds the alarm on country’s health care capacity

CHEERS TO Rappler for detailing the dire state of the healthcare system. The report directly countered the DOH claim that the “health care utilization rate” or the capacity of the hospitals and other health centers to cater to COVID-19 patients has “improved.” It zeroes in on DOH’s lack of action on the issues raised by health workers in the field and on the ground. 

In an exclusive report published on April 12, reporter Sophia Tomacruz showed that hundreds of patients continue to suffer while waiting days, even weeks, in emergency departments (ED) overwhelmed by the surge in COVID-19 cases. For weeks, hospitals had reported operating with full bed occupancy and patients not getting admitted for lack of beds. Rappler pointed out that many netizens have noted “the discrepancy between official statistics that indicated available space in facilities and the situation on the ground.”

The report cited data from the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine (PCEM) showing that, as of April 12, at least 310 COVID-19 patients needing hospital care were still waiting for beds across all 14 of its training institutions in Metro Manila and Cavite.  Tomacruz observed that while 14 hospitals represented just a fraction of the 159 health facilities in the areas, this still highlights “the strain under which public and private hospitals operate” as the number of cases have yet to “significantly decline.”

Rappler quoted Dr. Pauline Convocar, the president of PCEM, who said that DOH data have not shown that EDs are “already operating at 110- % occupancy rate” even after their hospitals had added facilities to meet surge capacity. According to Convocar, health experts are pushing for an improved DOH public tracker – to include ED figures, the demand of patients seeking care, the supply or space in other parts of the hospital where other patients need to be admitted. These have also called for greater efficiency of referral systems among hospitals. 

CMFR has noted other media reports presenting the crisis from specific angles, documenting the plight of families who have not been able to get admitted to secure beds for their sick members and how patients have had to be taken to provincial hospitals for treatment. 

Rappler’s overview presents the landscape, including the necessary data to confirm the dire situation, documenting the consensus among experts and medical workers. It referred to the statement of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) against the shift to MECQ, noting that authorities have “no clear plans and efforts to fix the root causes…” It also cited Takeshi Kasai, Director of WHO Western Pacific Region who said the Philippines was nearing a “red line,” where the number of cases exceeded healthcare capacity.

Media should not leave the story at this point. It should push for the answers and determine whether the DOH has the capacity to do anything about this.