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Cebu News

'Third wave' of COVID-19 infections crushing hospitals

John M. Destacamento - The Freeman
'Third wave' of COVID-19 infections crushing hospitals
All 13 beds at the ER are occupied. Outside, more patients line up in the hope of getting a room, which may not come until after five days – the earliest. Some have oxygen tanks in tow.

CEBU, Philippines —  From the emergency room to the intensive care unit, COVID-19’s trail of wrath is evident at a private hospital in Mandaue City.

All 13 beds at the ER are occupied. Outside, more patients line up in the hope of getting a room, which may not come until after five days – the earliest. Some have oxygen tanks in tow.

Other patients have to make do with staying inside ambulances parked outside.

Two floors in this hospital, a total of 70 rooms more or less, have been devoted to COVID-19 patients. All are engaged.

As this was written yesterday, the “waiting list” showed 60 to 70 patients on queue.

Abbie, a nurse assigned at the ER, said the sad part is that this has been the situation for more than a month now.

“Waiting na ang mga patients sa ER for almost a week or more. Di mi ka-transfer nila to other hospitals since puno sad sila (Patients wait at the ER for almost a week or more just to get a room. We cannot transfer them to other hospitals since they, too, are full),” Abbie told The FREEMAN, requesting anonymity.

“Everyday, ER nurses attend to patients nga nagtinga na. In a shift maka-attend mi two to three patients nga tubuhanan (Everyday, ER nurses attend to patients who are dying. In a shift, we attend to two to three patients who need intubation),” she added.

Under-reported?

It’s a situation shared by most hospitals in other areas in Metro Cebu.

In Cebu City, for example, the critical care utilization rate – which measures the proportion of beds occupied to total beds allocated – stood at 55.1 percent (487 occupied, 397 vacant) as of yesterday.

By Department of Health standards, this is still within the “safe level,” but the number is already close to 60 percent, which is considered “moderate risk.”

At Adventist Hospital-Cebu Inc., 28 regular beds were occupied and five were vacant based on July 26 data. Only one of its five ICU beds was vacant, while two patients were on mechanical ventilator.

At Allied Care Experts (ACE) Medical Center-Cebu, 72 beds were occupied and 26 vacant. Its lone mechanical ventilator was also being used.

Cebu North General Hospital’s 23 beds were all occupied, as well as its four ICU beds and one ventilator.

Velez Hospital, meanwhile, reported 57.7 percent occupancy with 15 beds in use and 11 vacant. All its four ventilators were also in use.

As for Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital, 42 beds were occupied while 42 were vacant. There was no available data on ICU beds and ventilators.

Two of the 10 beds at Cebu Puericulture Center and Maternity Hospital were likewise occupied.

Chong Hua Hospital’s occupancy stood at 39.9 percent or 65 beds occupied and 98 vacant. Six ICU beds and five ventilators were also in use.

Perpetual Succour Hospital reported that 53 of its beds were occupied while 79 others were vacant. Eight were in the ICU and six on ventilator.

Saint Vincent Hospital had 25 beds occupied and three vacant, with two of its ventilators engaged.

Southwestern University Medical Center, on the other hand, posted 31 percent occupancy: nine beds occupied, 20 vacant, and two on ventilator.

Visayas Community Medical Center Inc. had 83.3 percent occupancy:  30 occupied, six vacant, six in ICU, and two on ventilator.

Cebu City’s government hospitals are also feeling the pinch of the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Cebu City Medical Center, for one, had 87 percent occupancy as 49 of its beds were occupied and seven vacant. It also had two patients in the ICU.

St. Anthony Mother and Child reported 78.7 percent occupancy (59 occupied, 16 vacant) while Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center reported 43.7 percent (36 occupied, 49 vacant, seven in ICU, 24 on ventilator).

Sources interviewed by The FREEMAN yesterday, however, said these numbers could have been “understated or not updated.”

“Nanawag mi sa major hospitals in the city and all of them turned us down yesterday because, according to them, puno na (We phoned up major hospitals but they turned us down, saying they’re already full),” said a source whose COVID-19-positive brother had to be rushed to the hospital for breathing difficulty.

The family’s quest for a hospital room finally ended at a hospital in Basak, Cebu City, but even then, they were third on the waiting list.

Back at the Mandaue hospital, there are some extremely sick patients who have to content themselves lying on the hallway.

Even the so-called clean areas –rooms devoted to non-COVID-19 cases – are also full.

“(It’s) waiting na sa ER, maski (even for) clean cases. Same goes to transition floor,” Abbie said.

Manpower problem

But what makes things worse in Cebu’s coronavirus fight is the lack of manpower on the frontlines.

Abbie said the lack of staff and the deluge in patients have prompted the management to consider stopping admissions and resorting to consultations since no staff can attend to everyone’s concerns.

“(We are operating on) limited open floors due to limited staff. Daghan ni-resign due to exhaustion and undue response from admin, and naay mga staff nga nag-quarantine kay nag-positive,” she said.

In Cebu City, a number of CCMC nurses have also resigned.

This year alone, 14 CCMC nurses have quit their jobs. That’s on top of the 14 who resigned last year.

When job order workers are included in the equation, the number of resigned CCMC workers is even higher. So far, nine doctors, 30 nurses, four radio technologists, three medical technologists, five drivers and undetermined utility workers – all job order employees – have left their jobs.

According to CCMC administrator Yvonne Cania, the nurses either got their visa for the U.S. or the U.K or were complaining of the slow processing of their salaries.

With indicators pointing to an overwhelmed healthcare, frontliners like Abbie have one call to those who until now still underestimate COVID-19.

“Utang buot (please), limit going out if unnecessary. Limit contact by staying in your homes. Undang sa ta sa mga (Let’s refrain from) gatherings, even if we are vaccinated. Magkatinakdanay ra gihapon na (because that still leads to transmission),” she said.

“Utang buot, gipangkapoy na intawn mi (please, we are already tired),” she added. — Caecent N. Magsumbo, Brigida R. Gerzon, CNU Comm Intern (FREEMAN)

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