As the Philippines logs record highs in new daily COVID-19 cases anew, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said it's beefing up its "crisis response" by allowing even asymptomatic staff who had an exposure to the virus to still report for work, as long as they won't manifest COVID-19 symptoms.
"Hindi po namin kayang i-quarantine ang napakaraming empleyado...kasi wala na pong magseserbisyo sa ospital," PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas Del Rosario said during the Jan. 8 Laging Handa briefing. "Hindi rin naman namin isasabak iyong mga doktor natin, nurses namin kung sila ay may nararamdaman."
Del Rosario emphasized that they can't afford to lose manpower, noting that a quarter of its workforce has contracted COVID-19, as several others are in isolation.
"Kaya po ang policy namin, unless maging symptomatic ka...tuloy lang ang trabaho...para hindi po tayo mawalan o mapilayan ng tao," he added.
To aid their medical frontliners, Del Rosario said their personal protective equipment has been enhanced and their symptoms are being monitored daily.
The PGH has also admitted 255 COVID-19 patients so far, Del Rosario said, noting that half of them are still unvaccinated against the disease.
"Iyon pong sa critical or severe na cases, hati rin po," Del Rosario said. "May vaccinated, may unvaccinated."
Last Christmas, Del Rosario noted that they only have 30 COVID-19 patients admitted. The number, then, jumped to 203 last Jan. 5, or "at least six times increase from the 10-day course," he noted.
Del Rosario also pointed out that their bed capacity for COVID-19 is already around 80%, while its intensive care unit beds are all occupied.
In any case, he said they're ready to open more beds and COVID-19 wards when necessary.
"If you use 255 (COVID-19) patients right now, we can probably accommodate another 50," he said. "Expandable naman po as per need basis."
Omicron variant community transmission?
An infectious disease expert, meanwhile, said it is likely that there's already community transmission of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
"With the enormous number of people being positive with just a short duration of time...then I would say there is already community transmission of the Omicron variant," said Dr. Rontgene Solante, chief of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine unit of the San Lazaro Hospital, in the same Laging Handa briefing on Jan. 8.
So far, the Department of Health (DOH) has only gone as far as saying that there's "high probability" of local transmission of the Omicron variant.
Solante also took note of how it's more virulent than the Delta variant, which had triggered a surge in cases worldwide last year.
"Now, the experts’ opinion here is that because of these heavy mutations, the Omicron variant can be three to five times as highly transmissible as that of Delta," Solante said.
The DOH, citing studies, earlier said that one Omicron case can infect up to 10 people versus Delta's 8.
Solante also suggested placing areas with a spike in cases under a higher alert level, citing the present situation of hospital facilities and shortage of healthcare workers.
Several local government units have reimposed Alert Level 3, such as in Laguna, from Jan. 7 to 15; Rizal, Bulacan, and Cavite, from Jan. 5 to 15; and Metro Manila, from Jan. 3 to 15, in a bid to curb the rising infections.
The DOH's latest COVID-19 situationer that covers up to Jan. 6 showed that 33% of at least 35,000 COVID-19 beds in the country are occupied. About 32% of 3,400 ICU beds, 31% of 12,400 ward beds, and 35% of 19,500 isolation beds are also taken.
Last Jan. 3, about 24% of 35,000 COVID-19 beds in the country have been occupied. About 26% of 3,400 ICU beds, 19% of 12,400 ward beds, and 27% of 19,500 isolation beds, meanwhile, were being used.
The agency reported 21,819 new cases on Jan. 7, the country's third day of fresh daily infections at the five-digit mark.
To date, the Philippines has 43 Omicron cases and Delta cases at 8,497 on record.