By Macon Araneta

In response to the urgent plea of private hospitals and medical industry leaders, DoH Sec. Francisco Duque III said Dr Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and a building at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) will be used for COVID-19 patients exclusively. 

Duque acknowledged the move would centralize efforts as private hospitals are reeling from a drastically reduced workforce who have been put on quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19. 

He said UP-PGH began ceasing admission for non-emergency cases to free up wards and rooms.

“The initiative will require full support from the NCR medical community since additional health care workers will be needed to complement PGH’s existing workforce,” read Duque’s memo to UP-PGH.

In a joint statement, private hospitals and medical industry leaders, appealed to the government to put up “centralized” facilities for COVID-19 patients.

The DOH reported the highly contagious virus had infected 230 people and killed 18 as of March 20.

After reading the statement, Duque said he gave the go signal to the plan to turn abuilding at UP-PGH in Manila for the use of 140 COVID patients. 

“It will be converted to an exclusive COVID hospital at PGH,” said Duque said in a radio interview on DZMM.

“The agreement was for COVID patients from private hospitals to be concentrated at PGH where there will be an exclusive COVID-19 hospital,” Duque said.

He said the DoH will also transform its Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital as a specialized COVID hospital.

Health authorities, he said, are also working on putting up 120 beds exclusively for COVID-19 cases at the Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Tala, Caloocan.

Duque urged hospitals with diminishing protective equipment to contact the DoH.

The alliance of 11 hospitals issued a statement last March 19, calling on the national government and the DoH to designate hospitals for patients infected with the new pathogen, saying the growing health crisis has begun to overwhelm healthcare centers.

They also lamented depleting Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). 

Duque also found a compromise with the Lung Center for 40 rooms committed for COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, aside from RITM in Muntinlupa City and San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz. Manila, Usec. Ma. Rosario Vergeire said testing for possible COVID-19 patients can now be done at Baguio General Hospital, Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu and Southern Philippine Medical Center in Davao City. 

She said the DoH is also looking at Western Visayas Medical Center and Bicol Public Health Laboratory.

The hospitals that issued the appeal to the government include the Adventist Medical Center, Asian Hospital Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Fatima University Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Medical Center Manila, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, The Medical City, St. Luke’s Medical Center and University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Medical Center.