Questionable hospital procedures during pandemic

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

I want to express my gratitude to the management of The FREEMAN for inviting me to write a column in the oldest newspaper in Cebu. I feel honored.

I would have started writing last week, but I had to attend to my dad in the hospital.

With my dad’s hospitalization, I had my share of unpleasant hospital experiences during this difficult time of the pandemic.

It all started when my sister in Leyte called me to say that my dad experienced itching in his whole body.

Worried about a possible underlying illness, I instructed my sister to have my dad checked by a doctor. Because there were no private clinics available at that time, they ended up at the provincial hospital of Baybay City, Leyte.

Since it was late afternoon already, they were told to come back early next morning for the laboratory examination.

The bad news came in. The doctor was alarmed by the very low and unusual platelet counts when the laboratory results came out. Only five were left. The normal range is 140-440 platelet counts. With that result, something terrible could happen to my dad anytime. The doctor decided to have my dad admitted. He was not allowed to go home anymore.

I was told about my dad’s blood problem in my phone conversation with the doctor on duty. Since there is no hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood diseases) in our place, we decided to have him treated here in Cebu. For emphasis, my dad was admitted for illness other than COVID-19.

Since hospitals were full, we ended up in a hospital somewhere in Mandaue City. Upon arrival, my dad had to undergo hospital protocols during this COVID-19 pandemic, the so-called triage.

The procedure is that all patients, including my dad, have to undergo an RT-PCR test for COVID-19. If the result is negative, they would be treated in the so-called clean emergency room. However, if the result is positive, they would proceed to the COVID emergency room. After that, they would be transferred to their designated wards/rooms.

I perfectly understand the hospital protocols. My concern was that while the patient waits for the swab test result, he must stay in the emergency room for COVID patients. Note that RT-PCR test results will come out after 16 hours in that hospital. Such duration of waiting is very risky.

When I learned that there were two COVID positives already in the COVID emergency room, I asked the doctor if there was an isolation place other than the emergency rooms for my dad while waiting for his swab test result. He answered no.

I pointed out to him that if I were in the shoes of my dad, waiting for 16 hours in a confined emergency room with two COVID positives, I would most probably be infected with the virus, much more so for my dad, who is very vulnerable!

One cannot expect the patient to wear his mask for 16 hours straight and uninterrupted.

The doctor agreed with me on my observation. He even acknowledged such kind of predicament. So I decided to transfer my dad to another hospital after I signed a waiver to release him from that facility.

Hospitals should correct this procedure. I am sure that this is one of the reasons why there are patients who were brought into the hospitals for illnesses other than COVID but ended up COVID-positive. This is unfair to patients with comorbidities and the families that will be quarantined. What can DOH do about these erroneous protocols?

Finally, I thank God for healing my dad, for sending his instruments, namely, Dr. Leilani Cabahug, Dr. Mitzi Chua, Councilor Dave Tumulak, my dyHP/iFM family, etcetera, who helped me during this recent family trial.

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