Philippines earthquake patients
Hospital patients rest after they were evacuated to a covered court after an earthquake struck Cebu city Reuters


  • The Philippine General Hospital is expecting to see up to three years' worth of cancer patient backlog
  • Many patients who were unable to go to hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic may finally seek care
  • The hospital could handle the influx, but its cancer center "can no longer cater to the need for more space"

The Philippines' biggest modern tertiary hospital is "bracing for the worst" in the next two to three years as it expects cancer patients who were not able to go to health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic to finally seek care, according to an official.

"With what happened during the pandemic, a lot of patients were not able to go to hospitals. So we are looking at mostly advanced cases right now. We are looking at two or three years' [worth] of backlog on these kinds of patients," Dr. Jorge Ignacio of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) told reporters Thursday.

Around 75% of cancer cases at PGH are "advanced," according to Ignacio, who is the chair of the hospital's Cancer Institute.

This is up from the pre-pandemic average of 60%, newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

PGH currently caters to around 60,000 to 70,000 outpatients a year, and the hospital can handle the expected influx of new patients, Ignacio said.

However, the PGH's existing Cancer Institute that was built in the 1930s "can no longer cater to the need for more space," the doctor said.

The facility also cannot handle the requirements of the current times, where therapeutics have evolved from just "simple" treatments, according to Ignacio.

"We really need a bigger one because of a bigger burden [of cancer] on the population. Right now, many cancer patients are distributed to the different wards and specialty [areas]," he explained.

"Our burden is that we are limited in the number of chemotherapy we can do in a day. Right now, our outpatient can cater around 60 chemotherapy infusions," Ignacio noted.

The doctor is looking forward to the construction of a new 6 billion-peso ($110 million) cancer center that will have 300 beds for both charity and private patients, or around six times the current facility's capacity.

In addition to a new center, the provision of newer, but more costly, cancer medicines, such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy, would also ease the PGH's burden and speed up processes, Ignacio said.

The most common type of cancer at the hospital is breast cancer, which accounts for a third of all cases, followed by lung and colon cancers.

A total of 4,078,994 COVID-19 cases and 66,272 virus-related deaths have been reported in the Philippines, data provided by the World Health Organization showed.

Hospital bed
Representation. A patient on a hospital bed. AlexanderGrey/Pixabay