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Seeing Shades of Yolanda, Frontliners Seek Tougher Pandemic Response

Hospitals struggle to keep up.
by Ara Eugenio
Apr 6, 2021
Photo/s: Jerome Ascaño

Hospitals are so overwhelmed with the surge in COVID-19 cases, a doctor from the Philippines' main group of medical frontliners compared it to the situation during Super Typhoon Yolanda as they sought changes in the handling of the pandemic.

Dr. Aileen Espina of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 witnessed the worst storm on the planet and saw how doctors could hardly treat all patients in makeshift tents.

"Di ko po mapigilan na yung mga nakikita kong kahinaan sa sistema are the very same things na nakita ko noong Yolanda," Espina told a virtual townhall.

The HPAAC is the same group that called for a timeout during an earlier surge in August 2020 that led to tighter quarantines for two weeks. The current lockdown due to the 2021 surge is on its second week.

The group said the current health care system for COVID-19 is no longer working and needs an overhaul.


"In every emergency there are two things there: a sick patient who’s seeking care and a sick health care system," said Pauline Convocar, a doctor working on the frontlines at the Philippine College of Emergency Medicine. 

Convocar said that at her hospital, some patients waited for as long as three days before admission.

"Reflective po talaga siya ng health care system na hindi makapagbigay ng kinakailangan ng pasyente," said Convocar. 


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Among HPAAC's proposals, the One Hospital Command Center, envisioned as a one-stop referral center, should be strengthened. The health department needs to have eyes and ears on the ground to see what's happening in real time, the group said. 

A well-coordinated response structure between local government units, hospitals, and other stakeholders must be put in place, it added. 

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“Sana tumayo na yung konduktor para mapaandar na itong data warehouse na ‘to,"  said Espina, stressing the importance of the data-driven dashboard proposal. 

    "Hindi lang yan simpleng kama. It’s an entire system. And to put it up, it requires so much effort, so much manpower," she added. 

    Dr. Antonio Dans, an epidemiologist, said the surge should be addressed with movement restrictions, contact-tracing and vaccination. He said hospitals can increase COVID beds and staff and transfer mild and asymptomatic patients to an isolation facility.


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