Preparations have been completed, and on March 30, the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) begins operations as a COVID-19 referral center.
According to UP-PGH director Dr. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, readying the UP-PGH to accept COVID-19-positive patients was a joint effort by the University of the Philippines, the public sector through the Department of Health (DOH) and with the help of DOH-retained hospitals, and the private sector, including the construction industry and St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Speaking during the official launch of the UP-PGH Bayanihan Na! COVID-19 Operations Center on March 30 from the Nurses Home, PGH Compound in UP Manila, Director Legaspi gave a brief report on the preparations undertaken by the hospital, which began on March 23. [Watch the livestream here]
“Sa isang linggo po ay na-convert ang anim na bahagi ng ospital para tumanggap ng mga pasyenteng COVID. [In one week, we converted six sections of the hospital to ready them to receive COVID patients],” Director Legaspi said during his message to the UP community and the public.
Partners in the private sector
He thanked their partners in the private sector who helped with the daunting task of retrofitting two wards in the UP-PGH into a facility able to handle COVID-19 patients. The retrofitting of the wards was completed in record time by the DM Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), with the help of Architect Dan Lichauco, founding partner and principal architect of Manila-based Archion Architects.
An article published by the Philippine Star quotes a statement by DMCI president and chief executive officer Jorge Consunji: “We thank our workers who rose to the challenge of delivering this project on time and in accordance with social distancing and sanitation protocols. We also commend the management of the UP-PGH, architect Dan Lichauco and Bloomberry Foundation for supporting our workers.”
Director Legaspi also reiterated that an initial 130 beds with ICU units have been dedicated for COVID-positive patients “para po mas maganda at organisadong-organisado ang paggagamot ng mga COVID-19 patients, at pinaka-importante po, mas safe sa ating mga health workers [so that treatment of COVID-19 patients will be effective and organized and, most importantly, our health workers will remain safe.]”
With that, the first COVID-19 ward in the UP-PGH has been launched and will gradually be occupied by COVID-19-positive patients. The ward, Director Legaspi added, also houses new electric beds, which are more comfortable for the patients and easier for the health workers to handle. He thanked St. Luke’s Medical Center and its Board of Directors for transferring 48 of these electric beds to the UP-PGH.
Director Legaspi describes feeling overwhelmed by all the help that has come in from both the private and the public sector. Aside from the infrastructure retrofitting and the equipment, he also cited the financial and material support such as personal protective equipment (PPEs).
Easing the burden on UP-PGH personnel
He also thanked the volunteers, reporting that a personnel schedule good for three weeks has been drawn up. “Ang prinsipyo po nito ay hindi sila tuloy-tuloy na pagtatrabahuhin,” he said, “una nga dahil mahirap at mainit ang nakasuot ng PPE; pangalawa, dahil siyempre may takot ng konti dahil kakaiba ang mga pasyente; at pangatlo, ang psychological effect ng nasa area na ganito.” [The principle behind it is not to allow them to work continuously because, first of all, the PPEs are hot and uncomfortable to wear; second, because they are also dealing with anxiety about being around COVID-positive patients; and third, the psychological impact of being in an area like this.]
Director Legaspi also reported that, to ease the burden on the UP-PGH’s personnel and to provide them sufficient comfort to rest in, Citystate Tower Hotel president D. Edgard A. Cabangon allowed the UP-PGH personnel to use 200 beds of the Citystate Tower Hotel on AA Mabini Street, Ermita.
“Ang ating pong mga manpower services ay atin ding sinisiguro na kumportable,” said Legaspi. “Marami pong hotel na nag-donate din ng kanilang mga kwarto, at ang pagkain po nila ay organisado pareho ng mga pribado at ng ating Dietary Service headed by Ms. Emelita Lavilla.” [We are also ensuring that our manpower services are also provided comfort. Many hotels have donated the use of their rooms, and food for our personnel is being organized by both private entities and our UP-PGH Dietary Service headed by Ms. Emelita Lavilla.]
PGH: People Giving Hope
“Sagana po ang resources na ating mga natatanggap. Papantayan po ito ng UP-PGH ng tapat na serbisyo sa ating mga pasyente. [UP-PGH has received a bounty of resources. We will match that with our dedicated service to our patients]” Director Legaspi vowed.
Most of all, Director Legaspi thanked the UP-PGH personnel—the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, field-care and janitorial services, and security services—for their dedication and courage in continuing to hold their posts and serve the people, no matter the circumstances.
In his written message to the UP-PGH community, which was posted on the UP-PGH Facebook page on March 26, he called back to the same courage of the doctors, nurses and staff of the UP-PGH during World War II, when it became the only hospital that remained open during the war. “We have always responded, time and again, to the call of our countrymen when needed. This is that time again.”
This sentiment was echoed in UP President Danilo L. Concepcion’s own message to the UP-PGH community, also published on March 26. “‘PGH’ has become synonymous with hope and caring, with compassion and commitment, even in the direst circumstances. I have no doubt that once again, the brave men and women of UP-PGH will rise to the occasion and respond to their country’s call with steadfast courage, abounding talent, and exemplary professionalism.”