DOH chief says mild Covid-19 cases may be sent home

(UPDATED) Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday, March 11, admitted that government has limited resources with which to combat Covid-19 and has tweaked its algorithm for triage of possible cases to allow those with mild symptoms to undergo home quarantine.

Duque told the House committee on health that this is the Department of Health’s (DOH) new algorithm for for triage of patients with possible Covid-19 in healthcare facilities, given the limited resources of the public health sector.

“Mild cases with no co-morbidity (or presence of other conditions) can be sent home after testing with instructions for home quarantine,” the new algorithm, released by DOH Wednesday, states.

Covid-19 is the contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Severe cases could lead to death, especially if the patient has other pre-existing medical conditions.

Duque made the statement after Marikina Representative Stella Quimbo noted that there are only a total of 345 isolation and negative pressure rooms in public hospitals across the country.

Duque confirmed that there are 297 isolation rooms and 48 negative pressure rooms in government facilities.

He said there are about 800 private hospitals and each is required to designate at least two isolation rooms, one ward and one private room.

But the DOH has yet to determine whether all private hospitals have complied with the required number of isolation rooms.

The Health chief also noted that while the government has funds to combat the spread of the disease, there is a global shortage of personal protective equipment and test kits.

"Meron ho naman talagang pondo. Hindi naman ito naging problema. Ang naging problema po natin ay yung global shortage ng personal protective equipment, ng mga testing supplies,” Duque told legislators.

He said the DOH has asked the World Health Organization (WHO) for assistance in meeting the requirement for Covid-19 test kits.

“Kung magkakaroon kami ng 2,000 test supplies or materials every week, that might be good enough,” he said.

As of Wednesday morning, the DOH has logged 33 Covid-19 cases, 30 of which were confirmed only in the last five days.

Two of these cases are in critical condition. The patients, a 62-year-old Filipino and an 86-year-old American, both have underlying medical conditions.

Considered mild cases are patients with fever, dry cough, fatigue, sputum production, sore throat, headache, myalgia or arthralgia, chills, nausea or vomiting, nasal congestion and diarrhea.

Severe manifestations of the disease are difficulty breathing and/or respiratory rate equal to or greater than 30 per minute.

The DOH on Tuesday presented a P3.1-billion proposed budget to combat the spread of Covid-19. This will be used to procure personal protective equipment good for 90 days for 5,000 health workers and 40,000 test kits.

Duque said procurement is ongoing and they expected the first shipment on April 3, 2020. Subsequent deliveries will be made every 15 days until May 3, 2020. (MVI/SunStar Philippines)