Cebu City says it’s short on medical personnel, not hospital beds

Lorraine Ecarma
Cebu City says it’s short on medical personnel, not hospital beds

WAITING. Patients wait outside Chong Hua hospital ER to be admitted

Lorraine Ecarma/Rappler

Department of Health Central Visayas encourages residents to call their hotline before going to the emergency room

It’s not the number of COVID-19 beds Cebu City is falling short of, but medical personnel, Cebu City’s COVID-19 response head said.

“As [for] the number of beds available, naa’y bakante. Aduna’y bakante na 443. Ang pangutana, naa ba’y personnel,” Emergency Operations Center head Joel Garganera, a city councilor, told reporters on Monday, August 2.

(As for the number of beds available, there are vacant beds. There are 443 available beds. The question is if we have enough personnel.)

According to Garganera, the city’s hospital occupancy rate stands at 57%. This is just a tad below the 60% critical occupancy threshold. 

Cebu City was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine until August 15. At least 32 cases of the Delta variant were discovered in Cebu.

It has also been topping the list of cities in the Philippines reporting triple digit daily new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.

While local health officials have not directly blamed the delta variant for the surge in cases, at least 32 have tested positive for the highly contagious mutation of the coronavirus.

Despite the statistics, long lines of ambulances have become a constant sight in Chong Hua Hospital, a major private hospital in the city.

More recently, the situation has worsened as patients themselves started queuing outside the hospital’s emergency room, waiting to get admitted.

Acting city mayor Michael Rama, after a call with Chong Hua management, said the hospital also had enough beds but lacked personnel, making it a microcosm of the healthcare dilemma in the city. 

The acting mayor is set to meet with hospital owners on Monday.

In a separate press conference on Monday, August 2, Dr Jaime Bernadas, Department of Health Central Visayas director, said another part of the problem is patients going to Chong Hua Hospital, one of the most-popular hospitals in Cebu, when there are vacancies in other hospitals.

“We encourage people to call DOH-7 or the EOC and coordinate if they need to be admitted so we can direct them to the hospital with vacancies,” Bernadas said. 

Augmentation problem

Garganera said the Department of Health (DOH) sent additional medical personnel to augment the shortage in the city, but a bulk of them eventually resigned.

Naa na unta’y gi download ang DOH but there were also problems. Naa’y uban nag duty and medyo nagresign sad. And then katong existing nang resign sad for travel abroad,” he said.

(DOH downloaded personnel in the city but we encountered problems. There were those who showed up for duty but sort of resigned after. Those who were here before also resigned for travel abroad.)

Right now, DOH is working hand-in-hand with the Vicente Sotto Medical Center (VSMMC) to solve the medical personnel crisis in the city.

Rama also said the city is scouring its coffers for budgeting purposes, for when reinforcements do start coming in.

On Sunday, August 1, the city recorded a record-high of 413 new cases of COVID-19. Cebu City’s positivity rate stands at 20.7%– way above the 5% threshold for areas with manageable cases by the World Health Organization.

Cebu City has a total of 2,942 active cases out of 30,164 total cases. At least 933 have died in Cebu City from the disease, while 26,289 have recovered.

Those needing to find space for admission for moderate and severe COVID-19 cases can call the DOH Central Visayas at 032-411-6900 for landline; 09672219120 for Globe; and 09615777463 for Smart.  – with a report from Ryan Macasero/