After Cebu, Cimatu heads to Bacolod to help with COVID-19 outbreak

Marchel P. Espina
Bacolod Mayor Leonardia earlier sent an emergency appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to send an augmentation team of 150 nurses, 20 doctors, and 30 medical technologists from the Department of Health as an 'emergency stop-gap measure'

Weeks after helping Cebu City get its coronavirus cases under control, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu will arrive in Bacolod on Thursday, August 27, to help the city get its number of infections down after hospitals reported being overwhelmed with critical cases.

This was confirmed by Senator Bong Go, in a text message sent to Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, early Wednesday morning, August 26.

Leonardia earlier sent an emergency appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to send an augmentation team of 150 nurses, 20 doctors, and 30 medical technologists from the Department of Health (DOH) to Bacolod as an “emergency stop-gap measure,” before the city healthcare system gets incapacitated due to the rising number of COVID-19 patients.

With Cimatu will be Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino and Retired General Mel Feliciano, who the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) assigned to help Cimatu manage Cebu’s outbreak.

Previously, Cebu City was named the second “epicenter” and a hot spot of the virus, before Duterte named Cimatu implementer of the COVID-19 response in the Visayas. He also assigned the national IATF to assist in bringing the number of new cases down in the Visayas’ biggest city. (READ: DENR chief Roy Cimatu to oversee Cebu City’s COVID-19 response)

The 3 will make a stop in neighboring Iloilo, which is facing its own rise in virus cases. 

The Duterte officials will hold separate meetings with Bacolod City local executives and the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Bacolod is independent of Negros Occidental, being a highly-urbanized city.  

Leonardia said that Dino promised the “full support” of the national government.

The Bacolod mayor also said that Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, the chief COVID-19 response implementer, said he would catch up with Cimatu in the meeting or visit the city the following week.

Galvez, according to Leonardia, also promised to deploy Region 7 (Central Visayas) nurses and doctors to Bacolod, and that he will also arrange with DOH Region 6 (Western Visayas) to bring in more medical personnel to help fill the void for doctors and nurses in the city.  

Leonardia appealed to the President because the recent spike in local transmission has filled up all of the 149 allocated COVID-19 beds in the city’s 7 hospitals – one government and 6 private.

Last August 23, Bacolod hospitals refused to admit new confirmed patients because they had already reached capacity and had run out of healthcare workers to take care of the patients. (READ: 2 Bacolod hospitals reach full capacity for COVID-19 patients)

“The situation was worsened because many of the medical staff in these hospitals had tested positive for the virus and had to go on quarantine, and they have not yet reported back for work, while several others have resigned or have gone on absence without leave,” the mayor said in his letter to Duterte.

These patients could have been helped had there been enough medical personnel in these hospitals, he added in his appeal.

The province is currently under general community quarantine (GCQ).

As of August 24, Negros Occidental has 966 confirmed cases, while Bacolod has 749.

Meanwhile, the provincial government of Negros Occidental and the city of Bacolod will implement a hard lockdown during the proposed “timeout weekend” from August 28 to 31 to conduct the mass testing of 10,000 symptomatic patients.

As of August 25, the Philippines is at 197,164 confirmed cases. At least 132,396 of those individuals have recovered, leaving 61,730 active cases in the country. The DOH reports 3,038 deaths so far. –