COVID-19 deaths rising at Zamboanga City hospital

Roel Pareño - The Philippine Star

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The state-run Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) in this city is experiencing an increase in COVID fatalities, and the bodies are piling up and awaiting cremation, hospital officials said yesterday.

Photographs released by the ZCMC on Saturday showed sealed body bags lying at the lobby and on tables of the hospital’s morgue.

ZCMC chief Afdal Kunting said they started to experience an increase in COVID mortalities on Saturday, with patients continuing to overwhelm the hospital’s bed capacity.

Kunting said that when COVID cases started to surge in August, the ZCMC prioritized patients with severe symptoms and those in critical condition.

The increase in COVID deaths was noted in the past two weeks, when the hospital recorded an average of three to four, to six to seven per day, Kunting said.

Hospital administrators implemented a one patient-one watcher policy in non-COVID wards to control the number of people in the building.

Kunting said watchers were required to undergo RT-PCR or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test.

The surge prompted the local inter-agency task force to revert the city to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine starting last Saturday until the end of this month.

As this developed, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Zamboanga peninsula is the only region in the country that remains at high risk classification for COVID.

“The National Capital Regon and most regions are at moderate classification. However, several regions have higher COVID bed and/or ICU utilization rates at more than 70 percent,” Vergeire said, referring to intensive care unit.

Case classification is being determined based on a two-week growth rate and average daily attack rate in an area or region.

Vergeire said they are also looking at health care utilization rate (HCUR), which pertains to the utilization of beds, mechanical ventilators and ICU beds dedicated to COVID patients.

“It’s not just the cases that we look at. We also look at HCUR. For example, if it is moderate risk but their HCUR is high, it might be because they have many severe and critical cases,” she said.

It is also possible that the bed utilization is high because some areas have few beds assigned for COVID cases, she added.

Data showed the bed utilization rate in Zamboanga peninsula is high risk at 70.29 percent, while its mechanical and ICU utilization is both moderate at 61.11 percent and 54.02 percent, respectively.

Vergeire said the Department of Health is closely monitoring not only Zamboanga peninsula but also Cagayan Valley and the Cordilleras, which are both at moderate risk, and Bicol region, which is at low risk.

“We are seeing increasing cases in these regions so we are keeping a close watch on them. Their hospitals are also getting overwhelmed,” Vergeire said. – Sheila Crisostomo

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