COVID-19

Cebu’s COVID-19 personnel woes worsen as medical workers fall ill

Lorraine Ecarma

HEALTH WORKERS. In this file photo, health workers in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz, Cebu City prepare to transfer positive COVID-19 patients to an isolation area on April 21, 2020.

Gelo Litonjua/Rappler

While 95% of the infected health workers are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, they have been taken off their work rosters to prevent further spread

The COVID-19 virus has infected 132 health frontliners who live in this city, worsening the hospital personnel shortage amid a surge in cases.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, head of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said on Tuesday, August 3, that the infected health workers work for 31 hospitals, medical clinics, facilities, offices, and laboratories in Metro Cebu.

While 95% of the infected health workers are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms, they have been taken off their work rosters to prevent further spread.

Garganera said the figure covers infections over the last 14 days. All but one of the infected medical frontliners have been vaccinated.

The city EOC head stressed that for every infected worker, colleagues listed as close contacts also had to go on quarantine.

“So just imagine, they’re being isolated together with their close contacts in their workplace. That’s a big dent to our medical force,” Garganera stressed.

An entire department in one of the city’s hospitals was put on lockdown last week due to exposure to positive cases, he said.

Garganera’s update comes a day after he acknowledged that personnel problems, rather than the lack of beds, were causing the lines of patients waiting for admission in a city hospital. 

Garganera had attributed the shortage of personnel to new hires who resigned or staff who left to work abroad.

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Hospital occupancy rates, according to the city government, still fall below the 60% critical occupancy threshold.

Personnel shortage has resulted in long queues of ambulances, private vehicles, and even patients on oxygen support outside the emergency rooms of some private hospitals here. 

In a previous interview with Rappler, a resident doctor from a major private hospital in the city said the “pending” list in their facility went as far as 19 patients waiting to be admitted. 

The doctor also told Rappler that over the past months, many nurses have resigned, forcing their hospital to close down one of their floors. 

“Naa bitaw shortage gyud nga to the point nga we had to close one floor sa hospital kay wa na’y nurses gyud. Gamay na kaayo’g mga nurses,” the doctor said. 

(There’s really a shortage, to the point that we had to close one floor in the hospital because we lack nurses. The number of nurses is really low right now.)

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“The workload is very demanding but the pay is not enough,” the doctor added. 

The Department of Health and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center are now coordinating to source out medical personnel to augment the city’s hospital workforce. 

Cebu City has been placed under the stringent modified enhanced community quarantine from August 1 to August 15 due to the discovery of cases of the Delta variant in the locality. 

As of Monday, August 2, Cebu City has a total of 30,315 COVID-19 cases, with 3,016 active cases, 943 deaths, and 26,356 recoveries.

The city reported 154 fresh cases that day, and 413 fresh cases on Sunday, August 1. – Rappler.com