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By Chelsey Keith P. Ignacio

Hospitals are one of the most important establishments, especially now as COVID-19 continues to plague the world. Medical support and care for the people are a critical source of why the nation perseveres to function despite the global health crisis.

Being the largest private hospital operator in the Philippines, the Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings, Inc. (MPHHI) greatly contributes in aiding the country in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPHHI comprises 18 hospitals throughout the country and serves an average of 2.8 million patients every year. Among the group’s hospitals include Makati Medical Center, Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

“MPHHI conducts business efficiently and cost-effectively while staying mindful of the constant need to reshape and strengthen the country’s overall healthcare system,” said Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), an MPHHI shareholder, on its 2020 Sustainability Report.

Back in the first months of 2020, when the Philippines’ number of COVID-19 cases rapidly increased, MPHHI immediately responded to the public health emergency, the report stated.

The group promptly built up its COVID-19 bed capacities to take care of patients. And by the third quarter of 2020, the total allocation within the network reached 850 beds.

Furthermore, MPHHI opened multiple wards for patient isolation. It also deployed additional nurses and provided medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the medical workers’ health and safety.

The Department of Health (DoH) accreditation was also secured by the group for most of its hospitals to serve as COVID-19 testing facilities.

MPHHI managed to help the state-owned East Avenue Medical Center as well. It expanded the government hospital’s COVID-19 capacity through its provision of P35 million worth of medical equipment.

“All these initiatives were undertaken to align with the Philippine government’s efforts to fight the pandemic,” said MPIC.

By far, the 2020 MPIC report stated that MPHHI hospitals have tested 170,000 individuals for COVID-19. Overall, MPHHI has served 2,608,244 patients in 2020, the report stated.

When the COVID-19 vaccinations began, MPHHI supported the Ingat Angat Bakuna Lahat campaign, a private sector-led initiative collaborating with the government, which encourages Filipinos to get inoculated.

“We are genuine and steadfast partners with the national and local governments to help ensure the extensive and efficient rollout of the [COVID-19] vaccines,” MPHHI Chairman Manuel V Pangilinan said through a recorded video during the virtual campaign launch in May.

“Our Ingat Angat commitment of seven vaccination teams performing 21,000 jabs over 30 operating days in two of our largest National Capital Region sites [Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital and Medical Center] forms an integral part of our nationwide total vaccination capability,” Dr. Jeffrey Staples, group chief operating officer of MPHHI, said in the event.

At the campaign launch, Dr. Staples shared that 87% of MPHHI hospital have received their COVID-19 vaccinations, “ensuring that our hospitals are safe for our staff, our patients, and our families.”

MPHHI further supported vaccination-related initiatives by providing guidance and expertise for software solutions company Multisys Technologies Corp. in developing Safify, a platform to oversee digital health matters.

Recently launched this month, Safify is a digital tool that lets employers manage the vaccination program in the workplace. This includes supply chain, inventory, and vaccine administration.

“We, at MPHHI, recognize the importance of digital tools to speed up the delivery of vaccination services crucial to our country’s return to normalcy, which is why we have closely collaborated with MultiSys to co-develop an excellent vaccination platform, Safify,” said Augusto Palisoc Jr., president and chief executive officer of MPHHI.

While devoting such efforts to address the COVID-19 problem in the Philippines, MPHHI was still able to seek innovative solutions to continue its services for the patients while maintaining a safe amount of hospital foot traffic.

Last year, the group started to introduce virtual consultation, e-pharmacy, mobile laboratories, and remote patient monitoring.

“MPHHI believes that using telemedicine and remote patient monitoring for management of chronic diseases can minimize, though not totally prevent, physical visits of patients to healthcare facilities,” said Eriene C. Lao, chief information officer at MPHHI, in a statement last year.

“Telemedicine may be our new normal,” she added. “It augments the delivery of primary health care most especially in our country, where the doctor-to-patient ratio is a challenge.”

MPHHI, three months into the pandemic, began looking at modern information and communication technologies to connect medical professionals with patients in a virtual way.

Some of the group’s hospitals already utilized telemedicine solutions to have virtual consultations, shared Ms. Lao, also noting that these solutions were mainly developed in-house.

Nonetheless, face-to-face consultations between doctors and patients remain to be important. MPHHI, therefore, strongly advised following safety protocols.

In any case, MPCI stated on its website that all of the MPHHI hospitals are re-structuring their facilities for appropriate isolation of COVID-19 patients from non-COVID patients. This is to ensure that the group’s hospitals can continue to safely care for both.