Act now to avert hospital bed crisis -- Hontiveros

Risa Hontiveros
Risa Hontiveros

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros pushed for authorizing the Department of Health (DOH) to set the bed occupancy rates of public hospitals, to better prepare the country's healthcare system for the resurgence of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in Metro Manila and other hotspots.

"Huwag na nating hintayin na ma-overwhelm ang mga hospital dito sa Metro Manila at sa ibang lugar na maraming kaso ng COVID-19. The Department of Health should be empowered to set the bed capacity of public hospitals, so they can easily upgrade their services during this crisis," Hontiveros said.

The senator made her call after several Metro Manila hospitals reported that their "intensive care units" handling COVID-19 patients are fast approaching their limit again, as cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in the capital. 

However, the DOH has assured that hospitals in Metro Manila are not yet "overwhelmed" as was the case last March.

According to Hontiveros, government should already prepare for the possibility that Metro Manila hospitals will again reach their maximum capacity due to the growing number of COVID-19 patients by ensuring that all hospitals fully comply with the DOH's existing order to dedicate 30 percent of their bed capacity for COVID-19 cases.

However, Hontiveros said that a more permanent solution to the issue of bed capacity is to authorize the DOH to set the necessary bed occupancy rates of various hospitals in the country. 

At present, increasing a public hospital's capacity can only be done via a new law passed by Congress -- a process that Hontiveros said must change.

This was why, Hontiveros said, she filed Senate Bill No. 863, which seeks to grant DOH the authority "to set and approve the bed occupancy rates of its retained hospitals." 

Under the bill, DOH will also be responsible for formulating guidelines on evaluating and rationalizing the bed capacity of public hospitals nationwide.

"It is much more prudent to delegate to DOH, which already has regulatory and administrative control over public hospitals, the function of setting and rationalizing the bed capacities of these hospitals. Masyadong matagal at magastos ang maya't-mayang pagpasa ng batas para lang paisa-isang madagdagan ang kakayahan ng mga ospital," she said. 

Hontiveros said she hopes Congress will make the measure a priority once the 2nd Regular Session of the 18th Congress begins later this month: "Ngayong may health crisis, dapat mas mabilis ang pag-upgrade natin sa ating frontline facilities dahil maraming buhay ang nakataya dito."

"Let's not wait for things to turn for the worse before we act. Ayaw na natin maulit ang mga kwento ng mga kababayan natin na namatayan ng kamag-anak dahil wala nang pampublikong ospital na maaring tumanggap at gumamot sa kanila," Hontiveros concluded.