Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, the newly minted Covid-19 treatment czar, said on Monday he would seek to expand hospital capacities nationwide as the number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds for critical care had reached a “danger zone.”

“The critical bed capacity especially for the ICUs according to our data, nasa danger zone na—that was about mga 70 percent. Mayroon pa ring kailangan na tugunan and we have to make sure na if ever there is a rise in the number of severe and critical patients, kailangan maka-adjust ang mga hospitals in terms of providing critical care and expanding their intensive care units,” he said.

Vega reported that as of July 9, 43.8 percent (4,480 beds) of Covid-19 isolation beds nationwide were occupied. Nationwide, ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, whether for critical care or otherwise, were 43.7 percent occupied (573 beds).

“[I]yong ating ICU beds, ito ay dahan-dahan ding tumataas. Ito ‘yung isa sa mga reasons na task namin to come up with one hospital management, ito ay ay para ma-apportion namin ang number of patients na coming in sa private na hindi na mabigyan ng access at saka ma-refer namin ito sa mga public institutions or other specialty centers na nagha-handle ng Covid,” the treatment czar said.

Vega said the Department of Health (DOH) had executed the “One Hospital Command” system, where the government could set up Covid-19 bed allocation guidelines, establish a data dashboard for better visibility and planning of healthcare capacity, expedite treatment payment for patients and provide forums for public and private hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Under One Hospital Command, the DOH released an administrative order requiring 30 percent of all bed capacities to be designated for Covid-19 patients.

The health undersecretary said private hospitals must be able to accommodate 50 to 80 percent of Covid-19 clients once the country experiences a “surge.”

On Monday, St. Luke’s Medical Center said its ICU for Covid-19 patients in its Quezon City and Taguig branches had reached “full capacity.” Makati Medical Center also reported hitting full threshold.

Eleven other Metro Manila hospitals previously announced full utilization of ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.

Vega also said that the DOH was collaborating with different health facilities to form a network for a more uniform course of action.

“Iyon ang pinakaimportante right now with this crisis, is that we need to come up with a system and move as one,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro