The Lung Center of the Philippines was established through Presidential Decree No. 1823 on January 16, 1981 to provide the Filipino people state-of-the-art specialized care for lung and other chest diseases.  

The Center was inaugurated on January 23, 1982 as a tertiary level hospital with the view of “meeting the anticipated health problems of respiratory nature on a national coverage as a coordinated effort of the Ministry of Health, other government agencies and the private sector committed to health.” It may be claimed that the Center had a vision and history that belonged to a gracious lady and a dedicated surgeon  who devoted his last few years in making a dream come true. Unfortunately, the late Dr. Enrique M. Garcia, the former Minister of Health, a prominent thoracic surgeon and the first President and Director-designate did not witness the opening of the Center.

It was on Valentine’s day in 1974, when Dr. Garcia, then Director of the Quezon Institute approached then First Lady Imelda R. Marcos for assistance to rehabilitate the hospital. Aware of the deteriorating physical set-up and the financial difficulties being encountered by Quezon Institute, she offered some support but expressed her vision of putting up specialty medical institutions, which included a Lung Center. With 48.4% of the yearly deaths due to respiratory ailments, it indeed seemed the sensible thing to do.

By 1979, Dr. Garcia received glad tidings that the project would push through. Construction work began on a 12-hectare lot donated to the Lung Center of the Philippines, Inc. by the National Housing Authority. The Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office financed the building and equipping of the Institution. The fruit of over seven long years of waiting, planning and hoping was finally realized.

Through the years since it opened in 1982, LCP has been responding resolutely to the challenges of providing effective pulmonary care to patients, posting impressive gains in virtually all services being rendered.

In a tragic twist of events that happened on May 16, 1998, all the glory and fame that the LCP had achieved practically went up in smoke. A fire that gutted 80% of the hospital building and facilities, temporarily set back the time table for more ambitious research developments and promotive health programs. The Center’s immediate rehabilitation was needed to be able to continue its vital services, considering that most of its patients comes mostly from the masses. Thus to initiate the restoration of the hospital, President Estrada ordered the release of initial funds amounting to P200 million.

The reopening of the Center last March 1, 1999 was an occassion for rejoicing and relief, especially by those who depended on the hospital because they could not get the specialized treatment they needed anywhere else. The Center then provide basic services such as the 24-hour Emergency Room, laboratory, radiology and pharmacy services, in-patient and out-patient consultation, ECG, central supply, ultra-sound, nursing care and ambulance conduction. It has two operating rooms (OR), and an intensive care unit (ICU).

Lung Center of the Philippines During the Pandemic
By Dr. Eileen A. Aniceto

The year 2020 brought a different kind of challenge, one that changed the landscape of healthcare delivery and access in the world and in the Philippines. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the specialized services of the hospital just as effectively as the fire that gutted it in 1998. This time, however, the entire country was brought down to a standstill.

The hospital becomes a referral center for COVID-19

Emergency room visits for COVID-19 sky-rocketed while non-COVID related consultations plummeted. Many elective diagnostic and surgical procedures which were major sources of hospital income had to be postponed. In-person office visits had to be deferred or shifted to telehealth visits while all other forms of health care delivery had to be revised to ensure compliance with community mitigation measures and government mandates like social or physical distancing and health screening for hospital visits, often requiring an RT-PCR swab. All of these changes had severe adverse financial impacts on the healthcare system. The Lung Center of the Philippines, having been designated as a COVID-19 referral center for severe to critical cases, was thrust to the frontlines of the country’s COVID-19 response and can be said to have borne the brunt of the impact of the pandemic.

In the early part of 2020, little was known about the disease, only that it is caused by an influenza-like virus that was highly transmissible, that targeted primarily the lungs and had a high mortality rate. At that time, the LCP already had an 8-bed isolation unit converted and retrofitted just for this purpose, a result of previous encounters with cases during the SARS, the Avian Flu and 2009 H1N1 pandemic. A triage system was adopted very early on, where suspected cases of COVID-19 or Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) were directed to and managed in the isolation unit, but the system was quickly overwhelmed by the huge surge of cases in March of 2020. The Hospital Emergency Management System – Incident Command System (HEMS-ICS) was quickly activated and meetings of special action teams were conducted in the open-air parking area at the back of the hospital to quickly respond to developments in the pandemic.

The strategic goals of the LCP-HEMS-ICS were:
● To increase bed capacity for COVID-19 to meet rising cases
● To ensure and maintain personnel safety
● To provide a high quality of health care for COVID-19 patients

When patients began to inundate our emergency rooms, with 60 to 80 consultations per day, the 8-bed
isolation unit was quickly filled to capacity, we had to plan on how to increase bed capacity for COVID-19 to accommodate as many patients as our healthcare system can support. Wards were emptied of non-COVID patients and retrofitted with exhaust systems, CCTVs and patient monitors. Plastic dividers separate COVID from non-COVID areas. Each ward was converted to accommodate between 22 to 30 beds for COVID-19, with designated beds for critical care and general care. At the height of the pandemic, we had increased inhospital bed capacity of over 200. From an initial 6-bed COVID-19 ICU, we had a total of 80 critical care beds by retrofitting rooms with CCTVs and cardiac monitors. Additional accommodations were added over the course of pandemic: the Philippine Red Cross established Emergency Field Hospital which could admit up to 64 cases from June to October, 2021; a 16-bed
modular hospital built by DPWH became functional at the latter part of 2020; a 10 bed modular hospital and COVID-19 triage facility donated by a private foundation available by 3rd quarter of 2021; and the most recent addition is the 102-bed modular hospital. As of October 2021, with 4 of the 6 hospital wards dedicated to COVID-19, plus 6-bed medical ICU also built by DPWH, the LCP has an effective bed capacity of 179, with potential of additional 90 beds, once the staffing requirements are met.

The COVID triage and reception areas were makeshift tents in the LCP parking lot in the beginning. But since conditions there were less than ideal, and when the pandemic did not show signs of slowing down, the newly opened OPD building was converted to serve as COVID triage, OPD and ER extension for mild cases. These were again transferred to a new modular facility which was built and donated by a private foundation in the middle of 2021, where it remains at present.

The LCP has been lucky to have been the recipient of donations of mechanical ventilators and High Flow Nasal Cannula systems both of which are crucial in the management of the moderate to critical cases of COVID19. Currently, we have a total of 107 mechanical ventilators and 58 High flow nasal cannula systems. An oxygen manifold system was obtained in addition to the liquid oxygen supply to the main building to provide consistent oxygen supply to all COVID wards, including the external COVID infrastructure.

The year 2021 ended with the hope that this pandemic will be over soon, with the nationwide vaccination rates reaching 80% and the COVID-19 census finally going down hopefully for good. The Lung Center of the Philippines as of the end of 2021, is preparing for the reopening of full services for non-COVID medical conditions at the same time securing the COVID-19 facility that will house the COVID-19 services that the Center will continue to provide in the succeeding months of recovery.

Through all these, we managed to keep the majority of our hospital personnel free of the COVID-19 virus, by providing an adequate supply of PPEs, routine and as needed RT-PCR testing, support for meals,
transportation and shelter, and mandated salaries and additional benefits to all medical, nursing, allied and administrative staff. As of the end of November 2021, a total of 483 out of the more than 1,200 regular, job order and DOH augmentation personnel contracted the virus during the 20 months of the pandemic, with just 1 (0.2%) recorded mortality.

All hopes were dashed as the year 2022 was ushered in with the news that the Omicron virus circulating the world in record time has reached the Philippines. The new strain caused milder symptoms, that is true, but with such infectivity that in a matter of days, our hospital personnel afflicted jumped from 0 at the start of the year to almost 200 by the end of the first week. The country has also reached a daily high of 26,458 new cases by the end of the first week and it kept on increasing. We have all the COVID facilities and medical equipment ready and regardless of the crippled manpower, we are committed to serve to the best of our ability, as a “regionally competitive and locally responsive premier institution for lung and other chest diseases, providing quality healthcare through excellent service, training and research.