Manila Covid field hospital dismantled as another surge hits China —Why, oh, why?

THERE seems to be a misplaced sense of priorities with the dismantling of the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital while the pandemic is still very much in our midst.  

In fact, just a couple of days ago, it was reported that “China is experiencing a huge COVID-19 surge after hardline restrictions were lifted last month.”  

A number of countries are worried about a reported lack of data and transparency surrounding China’s renewed outbreak.  

Some countries have begun imposing certain restrictions against passengers coming from China. Reports have claimed that the new variant that caused the recent surge China is more serious and easily transmissible.  

I came across several photos of the dismantled facility and saw how even toilet bowls that were in good condition were destroyed, when they could have been put to better use, since many depressed areas in Manila alone have no decent toilets.  

Although it is undeniable that the number of COVID patients in the country has greatly decreased, it is also a fact there are still many such cases on a daily basis.  

And while some countries are imposing restrictions on the entry of air travelers from China, the Philippines is not. This means that the threat of yet another increase (knock on wood) is not too remote.  

This is the reason why I frown at the idea of removing the COVID-19 Field Hospital in Luneta at this point. There are a lot of people who still get infected. In fact, I know some who spent the holidays in isolation.

The reason cited by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), under which the site of the hospital (Burnham Green in front of Quirino Grandstand) falls, is so flimsy. I remember Mayor Isko Moreno telling a press conference that the reason given was that the site will be used for holding a concert.  

When the hospital was opened in June 2021 on the initiative of then Mayor Isko and then Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna, it was in anticipation of a surge and when it did happen, it helped declog the six city-run hospitals in Manila of COVID cases.  

Eventually, hospital director Dr. Arlene Dominguez was tasked to accept even non-Manilans that before it finally closed down on October 31, the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital was already catering to COVID patients who are either from the Tondo Medical Center and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) which are both under the national government.  

Arriving OFWS who tested positive for COVID-19 were brought to the field hospital where treatment is free, along with needed medicines and even three square meals a day.  

The government spent about P200 million for that hospital with 344-bed capacity and all the amenities of a first-class private hospital. It received a total of 7,190 patients with zero mortality. And 40 percent of them were not from Manila.

This is also one reason that makes it hard to understand why the use of the said facility, even for other reasons related to health care, should not take precedence over the use of the said site for concerts or other events.  

I heard that Dr. Dominguez was directed to prepare areas for monkey pox patients at a time when the surge was also feared.

In June 2022, I personally heard DOH Regional Director Dr. Gloria Balboa telling Mayor Isko that the DOH was not informed about the planned removal of the field hospital. There was neither any coordination when Manila Health Department chief Dr. Poks Pangan told them about the request of the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) to remove the hospital as it will be used for certain projects.

Balboa said DOH opposed the idea since the country still has COVID cases.  

Before that, in April 2022, Mayor Isko and then Mayor-elect Honey expressed objection citing that the hospital still has patients admitted there, they stressed the importance of having a facility for COVID alone. 

Even with DOH backing, the NPDC stood pat on its decision to remove the hospital from its venue.

She said that after receiving the first letter from the NPDC to remove the hospital by June, Mayor Isko wrote Malacanang to request an extension so that the hospital stayed in operation until October.  

Dr. Dominguez said if the field hospital was removed in June, the city’s hospitals would have been full to the brim again since there was another COVID surge in July.  

The second request for extension under the time of Mayor Honey was again rejected but no reason was cited.  

“Nawi-weirdohan lang ako bakit nila minamadali, may pandemya pa,” were Moreno’s words then and even now.  

On my part, I do not know how anyone in his right mind would think that events or any aesthetic projects for that matter should be given more weight than public health.
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