Worried about ICU bed, ventilator capacities, doctor tells Filipinos don’t be complacent

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 03 2020 11:23 PM

MANILA—A public health expert on Wednesday said that while the country has performed well in what is termed as “critical care utilization rates,” that could change in two weeks if Filipinos aren’t careful in protecting themselves against COVID-19.

Dr. Katherine Reyes, associate dean for Research of the College of Public Health, University of the Philippines Manila, said this a few days after Metro Manila and other parts of the country eased up on its transportation and business restrictions to transition to a general community quarantine (GCQ).

Critical care utilization rates refer to how much the country’s critical care facilities are being used. 

Based on the DOH website, intensive care unit (ICU) bed usage is just at 35.5% while mechanical ventilator usage is just at 17.8%.

Reyes said the current rates are OK and would provide a “good buffer.”

“Kaya lang kailangan po natin itong tignan with caution. Kasi we will only see the need for probably more beds — dahil nag-relax na tayo ng restriction — we will only see it for the next 2 weeks,” she said during a televised DOH briefing.

(However, we need to look at this with caution. Because we will only see our need for more beds in the next 2 weeks since we relaxed our restrictions.)

Reyes explained that the COVID-19 virus takes a while to incubate, around 14 days for some.

“So hindi po ito reason na magiging kampante po tayo,” she said.

(So this is not a reason for us to be complacent.)

Reyes pointed out that in Italy, at the height of the outbreak, it had to issue a policy on how to rationalize the use of the ICU.

She said health workers do not want that to happen in the Philippines, because it’ll be difficult to have to choose who will be prioritized in the ICU and who will be given ventilators.

Reyes said medical experts are also trying to avoid what happened in Brazil, where there were days when more people were dying than recovering.

“So maganda po kung panatilihin natin na maganda po ’yung ating buffer and hindi tayo mag-relax ng ating guard so to speak,” she said.

(So it’s better to maintain our buffer and for us not to relax our guard.)

Reyes said hospitals should continue to improve their capacity and those in the provinces should be assisted in terms of forecasting, so they are able to assess by how much they would need to expand their capacity.