By Minka Klaudia Tiangco

Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Director Gerardo Legaspi admitted that accepting the health department’s request of converting the hospital into a COVID-19 referral center was “one of the most difficult decisions” he had to make.

However, it was also the right thing to do.

FB IMG 1585148622485 1027x1250 - PGH conversion to COVID-19 center ‘difficult, but the right thing to do’ — Legaspi

(Photo courtesy UP Manila/MANILA BULLETIN)

In a message issued to over 4,000 PGH staff, the “people giving hope” amid the COVID-19 crisis, Legaspi said they had to establish order as health workers struggle to work with a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and dwindling workforces as fear of the disease grips the country.

“Communities and hospitals around us are being inundated with patients. The resulting panic and confusion was palpable and paralyzing, both for the common person and the health workers who will care for them,” Legaspi’s message read.

“Amidst this chaos, order had to be established. And we have to, lest the enemy—which was not only COVID-19, but fear itself—decimate the services that were on the verge of collapsing as the crisis continued.”

Recently, several hospitals in Metro Manila issued an urgent appeal to the national government to designate one or two hospitals that can accommodate COVID-19 patients to prevent exhaustion of the hospitals’ resources.

“In one of the rare moments of solidarity,” PGH decided to respond to the problem just as it was tagged by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as a possible institution to serve as a COVID-19 referral center, along with the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City and Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan City.

“What is our beloved PGH, the largest, better-funded, cradle of scholars and idealists to do? We have been serving the country for 112 years, being the only hospital that remained open during WWII. We have always responded, time and again, to the call for our countrymen when needed, either through training, research and most especially service. This is that time again!” Legaspi said.

“Let us do this for the students, and for our senior staff who have opted to remain in PGH and continue to serve despite the clear and present danger. Let us do this for our comrades who have fallen, taking to heart the oath we all took. Let us do this because deep in our hearts—devoid of fear and anger—it is the right thing to do.”

In a virtual press briefing on Monday, Legaspi said they have already chosen an area in the hospital exclusively for COVID-19 patients. They have also committed 130 beds, but this number may increase depending on the arrival of patients.

Even if PGH will eventually limit admission to confirmed COVID-19 patients, Legaspi made the assurance that the hospital’s essential facilities such as the Cancer Institute Building and the emergency room will remain open to the public.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the country jumped to 636 after the Department of Health announced 84 new cases on Wednesday. Thirty-eight COVID-19-related deaths and 26 recoveries were also reported.

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