Medical City says it will 'remain open to all patients'
MANILA, Philippines – The Medical City (TMC), an upscale private hospital, said it “will remain open to all patients" for as long as the hospital can accommodate them, following the leakage of an internal memo telling its staff to “temporarily stop admitting” confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.
In the internal memo dated March 10, Tuesday, TMC Hospital Infection Control and Epidemiology Center Director Karl Evans Henson said the hospital’s main facility in Ortigas Center in Pasig City had already reached “full capacity” with 3 confirmed cases and several persons under investigation (PUIs) for the disease in its care.
“Currently available manpower will be unable to care for any additional patients. While our patients are our primary concern, we cannot ignore the fact that a healthy and safe workplace is imperative to sustain the level and quality of care that we provide to our currently admitted patients,” the memo stated.
In an official statement on Wednesday, March 11, TMC President and CEO Eugenio Jose Ramos explained that the internal memo issued on Tuesday night, March 10, was just a stopgap measure to control the inflow of new patients.
Ramos jabbed at critics, saying “they make things worse than they should be, contributing to the problem but offering no solution.” He called the leakage of the memo “a malicious virus that spreads faster than COVID-19.”
“Let it be clear, therefore, that as this epidemic evolves in ways that we cannot but anticipate, The Medical City, ever so proud of its Epidemic Rapid Response Team as well as its entire hospital staff, will remain open to all patients who deserve our care, for as long as our capacity to do so allows it," he said.
“This is a social responsibility that our enterprise – all 6 hospitals – does not shy away from. In fact, we intend to play a bigger role in this worldwide crisis in the days to come,” Ramos added.
He said that at present, the hospital already had 8 confirmed COVID-19 cases under its care, and that its Emergency Department handled 31 PUIs the previous night.
Worried that taking in more PUIs would overstretch the hospital staff and resources, the management decided to “temporarily control the inflow of new cases” and issued the internal memo on Tuesday night.
Wearing protective gear and following prescribed protocols do not guarantee the hospital staff 100% protection from the virus, and those exposed to confirmed cases are strictly placed on quarantine for 14 days, Ramos said.
“The impact of this on our hospital manpower base and other resources, plus the fear, uncertainty, and the onset of fatigue and burn-out is serious and very worrisome,” he added.
The TMC chief capped off his statement by saying that fear and misinformation are “the bigger enemy” than the novel coronavirus.
The mayor’s visit
Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto visited the TMC hospital in Ortigas Center before noon on Wednesday to clarify the matter.
“Partially because of several rumors, I went to The Medical City Pasig to meet with their officials. We are reassuring the public: TMC is not refusing patients. Even if they reach capacity, they will test and properly refer patients,” Sotto said in a post on his official Facebook and Twitter accounts after his meeting with the hospital’s executives.
Operations at TMC were “continuing as normal,” the mayor added.
Sotto then reiterated his call to spread only true and useful information, verified by legitimate sources.
Health Secretary’s take
At a House panel hearing on the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III faced questions on TMC’s alleged plan to turn down COVID-19 patients.
“Ang protocol diyan ay (The protocol there is) ‘not allowed to refuse patients. Unless the reasons are cogent, the reasons are clear, we cannot allow it. So we will have to look into this report. So I'm sending my regional director to make the assessment vis-a-vis the claim of the hospital of reasons why they are no longer accepting patients,” Duque told the congressional panel.
If any hospital is found to have unlawfully refused to admit patients, the government may revoke its Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) accreditation, and its license issued by the Bureau of Health Facility Services Regulatory Board, Duque said. – Rappler.com