Police, military now in charge of some major national quarantine facilities

MANILA, Philippines – The police and military have officially taken charge of a number of large venues that have been converted into national quarantine facilities for coronavirus cases who are asymptomatic, or with mild to moderate symptoms.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) was officially assigned to manage the quarantine facility at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Forum in Pasay City on Wednesday, April 15.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officially took command of the Ninoy Aquino Stadium quarantine facility at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila on Tuesday, April 14. The AFP is also set to run the quarantine facility at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Both uniformed services are deploying their own medical staff to these quarantine facilities, where patients with relatively milder cases of COVID-19 will be treated, in order to free up hospitals for patients with more severe symptoms.

The government is anticipating a rise in the number of COVID-19 patients as it begins "massive testing" of suspected and probable cases of the coronavirus.

PICC Forum

The PNP Medical Corps will care for patients at the fully air-conditioned PICC Forum quarantine facility, which has 294 patient cubicles and 6 nurse stations.

The patient cubicles are equipped with hospital beds, defibrillators, and IV stands. Wheelchairs are also available. The facility also a mobile X-ray machine unit, and a mobile pharmacy.

Outside the hall, 6 "smart houses" serve as quarters for health workers.

There are 16 police medical frontliners and 42 non-medical police security officers deployed to the facility.

The Department of Public Works and Highways worked with EEI Corporation and Vista Land Group to convert the hall into a makeshift hospital.

Construction was done round the clock for over a week, and it was completed 3 days ahead of schedule, said Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, whose family owns Vista Land.

Ninoy Aquino Stadium

The city government of Manila and the AFP are in charge of the Ninoy Aquino Stadium quarantine facility inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. The Rizal Memorial Coliseum, part of the same complex, is also being converted into a quarantine facility.

The stadium has a patient capacity of about 120. Along with its other facilities, the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex is expected to have a total patient capacity of about 600.

Prime Metro BMD Corporation and the Razon Group worked on the stadium's conversion into a makeshift hospital. 

The AFP Health Service Command is deploying a total of about 200 medical personnel to the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex and the World Trade Center quarantine facilities, said National Action Plan chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.

NINOY AQUINO STADIUM. The sports arena has been converted into a temporary health care facility for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic, or with mild to moderate symptoms. Photo courtesy of Smart Communications

NINOY AQUINO STADIUM. The sports arena has been converted into a temporary health care facility for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic, or with mild to moderate symptoms.

Photo courtesy of Smart Communications

Like preparing for battle

Military doctors, nurses, and so-called "medical aid men" comprise the AFP medical staff who will run the quarantine facilities, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7, Brigadier General Edgardo de Leon told Rappler.

Medical aid men are personnel trained in handling combat casualties. The AFP Health Service Command reoriented them to handle coronavirus patients, De Leon said.

The medical staff will be divided into 3 shifts. Each shift is 7 days, after which the personnel will be quarantined for 14 days, during which the two other shifts will take their turns. Ideally, the first shift will be ready to resume duty as soon as they complete their mandatory quarantine period.

"May backup kami (We have backup), the way we prepare for casualties in battle. 'Yan ang mga tinatanggap naming katotohanan eh (Those are the realities we've come to accept)," De Leon said.

More Army nurses

Gearing up for a long battle with the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippine Army, the AFP's largest branch of service, has recruited a total of 55 new registered nurses as of Wednesday.

A first batch of 16 nurses was assigned to the Army General Hospital beginning last week, said Army spokesperson Colonel Ramon Zagala.

The other 39 nurses will go through 3 days of training in responding to the pandemic, and military orientation.

Some of them will be deployed to the AFP's quarantine facilities at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.

The new Army nurses will eventually undergo basic military training and will be part of the regular force deployed to the AFP's station hospitals and medical dispensaries after the pandemic, Zagala said.

Those who are "fully qualified" may also apply to be commissioned to the Nurse Corps or the Regular Officer Corps for an initial term of 3 years. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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