THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has plans to convert used shipping containers into healthcare facilities for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients.

In a statement released Friday, the department said it is adopting what other countries are doing with regard to modified COVID-19 facilities to help ease the burden on congested hospitals.

“While spread of infection seems to have slowed down because of the enhanced community quarantine, we just have to be ready in the event that the situation worsens,” DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said in the statement.

Using four shipping containers that are 40-feet long, eight-feet wide, and nine-feet high, the clinic can isolate and treat up to 16 probable COVID-19 cases. One 40-foot shipping container can be converted into four rooms, each with a toilet and bath of its own. The design is in compliance with Department of Health guidelines.

Meanwhile, 20 foot-long containers can be turned into nurse stations, utility rooms, and separate temporary quarters for male and female healthcare personnel.

“We’re ready to convert these containers into mobile hospitals and install them in any available hospital grounds or open public spaces,” Mr. Villar said.

DPWH Build, Build, Build Chairman Anna Mae Y. Lamentillo said the department wants to be prepared should the country reach a point where other newly built COVID-19 facilities reach overcapacity.

“(It’s a prototype) so we can build as soon as the national government sees a need to build it,” she said in a text message. “It would depend as to whether we’d need it.”

The Philippines has 7,192 COVID-19 cases as of Friday afternoon, 477 of the patients have died and 762 have recovered. Globally, 2.71 million people have come down with COVID-19 which has killed more than 190,800.

The mounting number of cases has resulted in heavy congestion in Metro Manila hospitals, pushing the government to look for alternatives to expand the country’s healthcare capacity.

Aside from DPWH’s converted shipping containers, the Department of Transportation said earlier this week that it is renting two vessels from a private shipping and logistics company to be used as floating quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers. — Denise A. Valdez