“The worst of nightmares.” This is how a person in charge of the Manila hospitals describes the situation they are experiencing in the face of the increase in covid-19 cases, especially due to the new variants.
Every day long waiting lines form in front of the emergency services of hospitals in the Philippine capital, which relatives of the sick walk from end to end in the hope of finding a bed for their loved ones.
It was because of what Angelo Barrera had to go through in March, whose father died five hours after being enrolled on a waiting list.
“They took him to eight hospitals and they were all overwhelmed,” says Barrera, who in the meantime telephoned a score of medical centers.
The health of the 61-year-old pastor, who did not suffer from any comorbidity (coexistence of two or more diseases), suddenly worsened.
“The emergencies were full, as were the waiting lists. Some hospitals told us that there were about 40 patients waiting to be admitted,” recalls Barrera.
In the end, around 04:00 in the morning, a large private clinic put him on its waiting list for intensive care.
The pastor was on a stretcher, with oxygen, outside a packed emergency room when he breathed his last.
– “Help us” –
A telephone line directs COVID-19 patients to the hospital, but is unable to handle the hundreds of calls it receives each day.
Many decide to turn to social networks to find out in which establishments could be free beds or simply to vent and express their anger.
“We have called 48 hospitals in the metropolis of Manila and the surroundings for a friend, whose oxygen rate is at 75%. They were all full. Many did not even want to add us to the waiting list,” Laurel Flores Fantuzzo tweeted on 31 March, before launching a “help us.”
To stop the spread of the virus and decongest hospitals, the authorities decreed in March the confinement of the 24 million inhabitants of the capital and four surrounding regions.
A week later, between 70% and 80% of the beds reserved for patients with covid-19 were occupied, while the intensive care units were filled “almost 100%” in most of the capital, according to the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health Maria Vergeire.
“It is a catastrophic situation, the worst nightmare for a hospital director,” admits Jaime Almora, president of the Philippine Hospital Association.
– “Worse than last year” –
“It’s worse than last year,” says Leland Ustare, an anesthesiologist at St Luke’s medical center, alluding to the first months of the pandemic.
The government distributed tents to hospitals in difficulty and transferred health workers from other regions less affected by the pandemic to the capital.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hospitals are on the edge of the “red line” that is crossed when demand exceeds the capacity to care for the sick.
President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government was widely criticized for managing the pandemic and for the vaccination campaign, warned last week that the next few months will be “bleak.”
At the moment, the 828,000 cases of covid-19 have already been exceeded and it is expected that, before the end of April, one million will have been registered.
Rodell Nazario, who worked in a hotel before becoming unemployed, lost his 46-year-old wife last March. He had been waiting for two days to be assigned a bed in a hospital.
As her condition worsened, he decided to take her in a taxi, but she died when she arrived at the emergency room.
“Cases would not have skyrocketed if [el gobierno] I would have done the right thing, “says Nazario.
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