The Philippine General Hospital (PGH) is currently operating beyond capacity as COVID-19 patients continue to inundate the government-run hospital. The hospital said on Monday, Sept. 13, that its manpower is spread thin following volunteer doctors’ non-renewal of their contracts.
PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas del Rosario said the PGH has 320 beds allotted for COVID-19 patients; 310 patients are admitted and about 40 are waiting in the emergency room to get in the hospital.
There are 200 patients who are “waiting in the wings” to be admitted or be transferred to PGH but it’s “definitely impossible to get them in” because many of their patients, who are severely sick to critical, require longer days in the hospital.
In an interview with ANC’s Headstart, Del Rosario said they had to tell other patients to look for other hospitals, which are also full.
“A lot of patients are coming in, we’re operating at full capacity, talagang stretched out na ang aming manpower,” said Del Rosario, who also pointed out that a lot of the healthcare workers are getting sick, and as some of them were exposed to COVID-19, they had to take mandatory quarantine.
“It’s hard to open up more beds, to open up more wards if we do not have the right doctors to take care of them. A lot of our patients are severely ill, they really demand a specialist.”
This is following the news that volunteer doctors employed by the Department of Health, who have been with the PGH for over a year, did not renew their contracts.
“So if you take this altogether on top of that some of the healthcare workers, these are volunteers who decided not to renew their contracts, and understandably so,” Del Rosario said. “If you will take this into account and a lot of patients are coming in, we’re operating at full capacity, talagang na-stretch out ‘yung aming manpower.”
In a separate interview on DZMM’s Teleradyo, Del Rosario said of the 25 DOH volunteers, only five of them remain. Those who did not renew their contracts were said to pursue their subspecialties.
“Malaking tulong po sila, ito pong mga DOH volunteers. We had 25 over the course of a year. Laking pasasalamat namin sa mga DOH volunteer na ito,” the spokesperson said.
‘Task sharing’ to augment stretched-out manpower
In order for the hospital to continue the operations of its COVID-19 facility, PGH director Dr. Gap Legaspi asked different departments to send more residents to fill in the Internal Medicine department, which mainly attends to the hospital’s COVID-19 operations. They call this “task sharing.”
“Most of the COVID doctors are from the Internal Medicine Department, internists. Napapagod na rin sila at nagkakasakit.”
To augment the shortage in manpower, even surgeons, ophthalmologists, pediatricians and others, have to pitch in to take care of the adult patients.
'Increase the health workers’ salary, especially during the pandemic'
Though the Department of Health has allocated P20.8 billion for hiring more healthcare workers, and over 8,000 slots for emergency hiring had been approved by the health department, there are not enough takers to fill in the need for public health workers.
One of the solutions to attract more healthcare workers, Del Rosario said, is “you really have to increase their salary, really way above what they are getting now to be able to invite them to come on board.”
“They are doing extra work. Sabi nga ng iba, buwis buhay ‘yung ginagawa nila. They really want them to be compensated and you hear stories na even the basic hazard pay, their SRAs (special risk allowance) delayed pa,” he said.
Del Rosario added, “So nag-pile up ‘yan. Napapagod sila physically, emotionally then they don’t get the compensation they feel they deserve. And there are also other opportunities that are open out of the Philippines.”
He also pointed out the fact that many frontliners resign to take jobs that are being offered in first-world countries. “I think bottomline is at least taasan mo man lang ‘yung sweldo for now, during the pandemic,” he said.
With hospitals in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces receiving a deluge of COVID-19 patients as the highly transmissible Delta variant is now dominant strain in the country, Del Rosario appealed to the public to get vaccinated once it is available to them, citing that those who are getting severely ill are unvaccinated.
“So tulong niyo na rin indirectly sa mga ospital ito, not only to PGH, because if you do not get that sick, then you do not have to be in the hospital. And that means hindi kayo kailangan alagaan at dumagdag pa sa tututukan ng mga doktor,” he said.
As of this writing, the Philippines has 20,745 new COVID-19 cases, with the country's total number of cases now at 2,248,071.
Banner and thumbnail photo by Miguel de Guzman/The Philippine STAR