Northern Mindanao’s largest public hospital saves lives against the odds

Bobby Lagsa
Northern Mindanao’s largest public hospital saves lives against the odds
The Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) is the referral hospital for all coronavirus Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) in the region


CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Lack of flights to Manila delays specimen testing for their Persons Under Investigations (PUIs) for the novel coronavirus.

As if that isn’t enough to worry about,  the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) fears it will soon run out of personal protective equipment (PPEs) for its medical personnel.

The NMMC is the referral hospital for all coronavirus Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) in the region.

NMMC is taking care of 10 PUIs staying in individual isolation rooms, and has reserved another 14 rooms for the same purpose. It already has a plan in place on how to make room for more should there be a surge of patients who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

NMMC Chief of Hospital, Dr Jose Chan, said on Monday, March 23, that the hospital is running out PPEs. Their supply could only last this week if there are no new deliveries from the Department of Health (DOH) and their medical suppliers. (READ: LEFT IN THE DARK: Little protection forgovernment’s coronavirus frontliners)

Chan said that they still have enough PPEs as of Monday. “But [the coming days] would be critical. We may have no PPEs in the coming days,” he said.

Chan added that NMMC’s medical team is conscious not to exhaust their PPEs that include surgical and N95 masks. He said that while they received donated PPEs from the private sector, these won’t be enough.

Challenges in transporting specimen, PPEs

Chan hoped that the DOH and the hospital’s PPE suppliers will be able to make these necessary tools available anytime.

But he is also realistic: “I think that this is not just a problem of Cagayan de Oro but any place in the Philippines or even the entire world as we face COVID-19.”

It is worrisome, too, that the lack of flights to Manila does not only pose logistical problems. It has put on hold the testing of the specimens from 20 hospitalized PUIs, including NMMC’s 10 patients.

COVID-19 testing is done at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) while the DOH research laboratory is in Manila.

Chan said that they planned to send the specimens to Davao City’s Southern Philippine Medical Center (SPMC) which has a COVID-19 facility but the hospital had run out of the Sars-Cov2 reagent.

“Sad to say, they have consumed their reagent for testing,” Chan said.

Chan added that they have to wait at least 10 days for the results of a COVID-19 test.

The good news is, 14 PUIs from Northern Mindanao have tested negative for the coronavirus. The region still has a total of 172 PUIs.

The 40 NMMC frontline medical workers who took care of COVID-19 PH 40 are now on their 8th day of quarantine and “are fine”, DOH region 10 Director Adriano Suba-an said in an update on his Facebook page on Monday.

Another batch of 20 frontline medical workers will start their quarantine period on Tuesday, March 24, Suba-an said.

COVID-19 PH 40, the first COVID-19 fatality in Mindanao, passed away at the NMMC on March 11. He relocated to Pasig City after the Marawi siege and went home to Iligan City to seek hospital confinement on February 23. His wife had tested negative for the virus while their daughter is waiting for her test results.

Stay at home for PPEs to last one more week

Chan said that the only way for the hospital’s PPEs to last this week is for the public to cooperate with the government’s plea for them to stay home and prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.

This is the way to protect the frontline medical workers, Chan said.

Physical distancing also plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. (READ: Call it ‘physical distancing,’ not ‘social distancing,’ says WHO)

“By observing social distancing and staying at home, there will be less cases of PUIs that would be referred to hospitals,” Chan said, adding: “If we won’t follow the warnings, like social distancing, more patients will come to our hospital.”

“The PPEs will last this week only if there are no new cases coming in or patients admitted. We cannot tell, from what it is, it is unpredictable,” Chan said, describing the coronavirus. –



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