Iloilo City

Iloilo City mayor seeks aid for rural hospitals in Western Visayas

Mary Briseis Dequinto

ILOILO CITY CHIEF. This file photo shows Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas during a live address in June 2020.

Iloilo City Government

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has also asked the government's coronavirus task force to review his city's ECQ status

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas has urged the Department of Health (DoH) on to provide more personnel, beds, and critical care equipment to rural hospitals in Western Visayas.

Treñas made the appeal on Friday, August 6, as he the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to review the city’s enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status. 

The provinces of Aklan and Iloilo, which represent the bulk of cases in the region and a big percentage of COVID-19 patients now clogging the city’s hospitals, are under the modified ECQ (MECQ), a step lower than ECQ, Treñas pointed out.

Despite its full hospitals, Iloilo City only has 370 confirmed positive cases, compared to Aklan’s 1,097 cases and Iloilo’s 764 cases, according to the DOH’s Western Visayas COVID19 tracker.

The DOH placed Iloilo among 37 areas under alert level 4 or heightened alert. DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the alert number is based on healthcare utilization higher than 70%, regardless of the presence of the more transmissible Delta variant. The IATF also gives weight to hospital occupancy in assigning quarantine status.

“We will appeal just so that they really understand the situation,” Treñas said in a video message on Friday night.

An extension of the ECQ will do more harm than good to residents and people who do business in the city, he warned. 

The DOH on Friday said Iloilo City has three Delta variant cases. Treñas said all three have recovered and that the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) had asked them to bring all family members and close contacts for new swab tests.

In seeking reconsideration of the city’s ECQ status, the mayor noted that the health care utilization rate in the metro does not reflect the ground conditions. Only 30% of patients in the city’s hospitals are residents while 70% are from Iloilo province, Aklan, and Antique.

Aid needed

The city’s COVID-19 task force said on August 3 that ICU units had 100% occupancy. The health department’s Data Collect Tracker on August 5 showed the use of  131 of 155 ICU units. Aside from Negros Occidental, which lies across the Panay Gulf, all other provinces in Western Visayas have zero to a minimal number of ICU beds.

Treñas said he has written to the DOH to seek aid for rural hospitals. 

“I have endorsed requests of hospitals for additional health personnel, additional medicine, additional ventilators so they can provide ICU beds,” the mayor said. “Everybody is now dependent on Iloilo City’s ICUs,” he added.

The national government can augment the current roster of medical workers with military personnel, the mayor said.

He also sought approval for Level 1 accreditation of the St. Therese MTCC Hospital to cater to severely ill COVID-19 patients in the city.

Treñas’ request mentions the medicine Remdesivir, mechanical ventilators, high flow O3 cannulas, and bilevel positive airway pressure (BIPAP) ventilators to help manage and assist moderately-severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The mayor also confirmed the city’s order for P414 million worth of COVID-19 vaccines. He said the 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca cost P300 million, while 163,923 Novavax doses cost over P100 million.

Treñas, who has been following up Novavax’s application for emergency use in the Philippines, said the supplies could arrive in August and September.

The DOH Western Visayas office has a pinned post calling for new hires on its Facebook page. But other areas like Cebu have said there are few takers for the new jobs. 

While the DOH tried to reshuffle health frontliners in 2020, at the height of the first COVID-19 wave, and then again during a second wave earlier in 2021, the move led to resignations. Many veteran hospital staff also decamped to work abroad, according to Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, head of the local Emergency Operations Center.

Treñas said ECQ disrupts the flow of trade and commerce in the highly urbanized city, the trade center of Panay island. When businesses get affected, he added, the impact is greater on daily wage earners. 

The mayor also praised the Department of Social Welfare and Development for releasing financial aid and assistance to the affected residents, stressed that subsidies are only a temporary cure for vulnerable sectors and the economy. –