Opinion

Medical City Chairman Says Our Health System Can Handle COVID-19 Battle

He says it's time to allow people to head back to work.
IMAGE WIKIPEDIA/UNSPLASH
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We are at a critical juncture in this COVID-19 battle, crossing the three-month bridge, anticipating a second wave, contemplating whether NCR and Cebu city should be more stringently locked down.

Here’s the irony.

On June 11, the latest data showed 90 critical and severe, 17,292 mild, and 592 asymptomatic cases. The critical and severe constitute a mere 0.5% of total active cases. It used to be upwards of 20%.

Our hospital beds are at a third of capacity. We have 54,213 public quarantine beds, which can take over 3x the current mild cases. Looks like we have enough to handle a second surge, up to 50,000 active cases.

So the question remains—when is the lockdown enough?

Unemployment was 2.4 million in January, in April, there were 7.3 million jobless workers. So we have an additional 4.9 million unemployed because of the lockdown.

In the same month we had 480 deaths. 

So we had just over one death in April for every 10,000 newly unemployed. P5000 per worker is P35 billion in monthly ayuda.

Lockdowns are supposed to give our health care system time to handle this pandemic. That, and more importantly, masks, allowed us to get to a reasonable position in treating patients, although one month late. We are still playing catch-up on testing and tracing because we do not have a true Center for Disease Control, again one month late.

We messed up our laboratory ramp-up, our data capture to help us make better decisions, and our contact tracing. Let’s give ourselves some credit, despite all this, we're still playing catch-up.

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Everyone is afraid there will be too much crowding if we let everyone go to work. The national government should simply change its strategy, at least in NCR, from locking out workers to staggering work hours from 5 A.M. to 9 P.M. Let the private sector follow. The 30% informal sector that comprises retail and transport sector jobs will appreciate these two shifts.

Buses and jeepneys that usually run one shift will now run two. Stores will adjust opening times. Roads that were gridlocked with traffic will flow much better.

The BPO economy will flex closer to 24 hours, with a robust transport sector leading the way. Even a two-shift government operation paves the way for a smoother transition of the capital to Clark.

We have a P17 trillion economy. We know our health system can treat 50,000 active cases. We lost P1.1 trillion in GDP and 5 million more jobs over a 45-day period to end of April. We have had 1,100 deaths for the last three months. How about livelihood for 100 million Filipinos?

Jose Xavier "Eckie" Gonzales is the Chairman of The Medical City.

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