Doctors' group proposes to turn hotels into temporary hospitals amid COVID surge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 5) — A group of physicians has appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to convert hotels into temporary hospital facilities amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Philippine College of Physicians Vice President Dr. Maricar Limpin told CNN Philippines on Monday that converted facilities in Metro Manila, which may be manned by healthcare workers sent from other regions, would help accommodate more COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate cases while lessening the burden of hospitals already admitting severe cases.

"Kami sa Philippine College of Physicians, we already wrote to the President. We are recommending maybe kailangang i-transform 'yung hotels into a health facility," Limpin told CNN Philippines' New Day. "Yung mga manggagaling [na augmentation healthcare workers] outside of Metro Manila, papuntahin doon at sila yung mag-man."

[Translation: We at the Philippine College of Physicians, We already wrote to the President. We are recommending that maybe they could transform select hotels into a health facility. And healthcare workers coming from outside Metro Manila may be assigned there to man the area."

"The [converted] hospital facility will admit mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 lalo na yung mga elderly para mabawasan yung dami ng pasyente na pupunta sa hospitals," she added.

[Translation: The converted hospital facility will admit mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, including the elderly, so that the number of patients going to the hospitals may be lessened.]

Limpin bared the situation in some hospitals in Metro Manila that have already reached their full capacity.

"Excuse me for saying this pero 'yung mga emergency room namin sa ospital parang palengke na...marami sa amin hindi na sila (pasyente) kaya halos papuntahin pa sa iba kasi alam din naming hindi rin sila matatanggap sa iba," she said.

[Translation: Excuse me for saying this but the emergency rooms in our hospitals are now looking like markets...a lot of us could not turn away our patients away because we know that they also would not be admitted anywhere else.]

During the Palace briefing on Monday, Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the current healthcare utilization rate of 80% must be brought down to at least 60% so that the health sector can better manage COVID-19 patients.

"For ICU beds, [we now have] almost 100% in most cities. We need to bring that down to say that our healthcare system can be managed," she said.

In a separate briefing, she also confirmed the proposed conversion of some hotels into temporary hospitals to address the surge. She also ensured benefits for additional healthcare workers who will be deployed in critical areas.

"They will get additional benefits dahil sila ay dine-deploy sa area ng NCR. We will be providing them accommodation, meron silang meal allowance, at ibang benefits because they were deployed here," she said.

[Translation: They will get additional benefits because we are deploying them in the NCR. We will be providing them accommodation, meal allowance and other benefits because they were deployed there.]

Health Undersecretary and treatment czar Leopoldo Vega previously bared that the government's hospital referral system, the One Hospital Command, has been overwhelmed with calls due to rising COVID-19 cases over the past weeks. He noted that another week of enhanced community quarantine in Greater Manila area would at least buy them time to better manage referral of patients.

RELATED: Treatment czar seeks public patience as calls swamp hospital command center

The government has extended the ECQ in Metro Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Laguna and Rizal for another week to address the spike. New COVID-19 cases breached the 15,000 mark on Friday, the highest since the pandemic started last year.

On Sunday, 11,000 more were recorded positive, but 41,000 patients have gotten well — the highest daily rise in recoveries.