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Emergency Department (ED) staff at Negros Occidental’s largest hospital scrambled on Tuesday night, January 18, as scores of new COVID-19 cases flooded it amid rising numbers of health workers falling ill.
“At present, we have 57 positive patients and 11 probables at our ED; 32 of our health care workers are also positive,” said the first message from Dr. Julius Drilon, director of the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) just before 9 pm.
In barely an hour, the number of positive cases had ballooned to 117, including 47 hospital workers added to the morning list of 46 who were positive for COVID-19.
All cases showed moderate to severe symptoms, Drilon said. CLMMRH, the largest referral center on Negros Island, does not accept mild cases.
With the hospital’s West Tower down to two available beds, the number of ED patients more than triple its 20 available beds, and pediatric and obstetric COVID-19 beds full, Drilon ordered the cancellation of elective surgeries.
That added one more crucial unit to a list of departments that have closed their doors to all but “extreme emergency” cases.
“Staff are scrambling, our stomachs are churning,” Drilon told Rappler as admissions poured in. “When are our officials going to take this surge seriously?”
Bacolod City government officials agreed to rescind an earlier policy requiring travelers from Western Visayas and Negros Oriental to present a negative RT-PCR test result before entering the city.
Em Ang, head of the city’s emergency operations center, said Mayor Evelio Leonardia will amend an executive order he signed after the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force designated Bacolod under Alert Level 3.
Ang said business groups had complained about jacked-up travel costs to and from Iloilo City, the center of Western Visayas, and the delay in the movement of goods and services across Negros Island, the country’s fourth largest.
She also cited the national COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force’s policy on intrazonal travel, which allows no test requirements for the movement of people, goods and services between localities under the same community quarantine classification, without transiting through an area placed under a different alert level.
This is similar to the Metro Manila travel flow.
The city still follows a “no vax-no ride” policy but Leonardia is also reviewing this, citing legal technicalities and the problem of enforcement.
Drilon said he understood the business sector’s concern. But he pointed out that the Negros Occidental provincial government discovered almost 200 infected air travelers when it implemented a three-day antigen test-on-arrival policy from January 7 to January 9.
“That’s 200 infected persons that could have gone straight home to infect others,” the doctor said. “LGUs decide policy, but multiply that number many times daily and you can see the danger.”
The city and the province currently implement test requirements for travelers coming in by air.
The Department of Health in Western Visayas placed Bacolod on its list of “critical” areas on Monday, January 17, and also raised its alert level for Negros Occidental from moderate to high risk. The DOH alert system is different from the IATF’s.
The Philippine College of Physicians-Negros Occidental chapter on January 17 said 15 hospitals had 108 COVID-19 positive cases, with 26 more awaiting test results as of January 16. Seven of the hospitals are based in Bacolod City.
The Teresita Jalandoni Provincial Hospital in Silay City, just north of the city, has also scaled down operations in its obstetrics department, saying patients and watchers had infected many of its staff.
After the CLMMRH, the Cadiz District Hospital in the province’s northern part had the most cases, with 42.
Bacolod’s average daily attack rate (ADAR) hit 9.59 on January 18 and is “on a steady, deadly track,” Drilon warned.
The city’s ADAR, or the number of new cases over the past 14 days per 100,000 population in the area of concern was just 2.66 on January 10, he pointed out. The health department’s danger threshold is 1.
The province’s ADAR also rose from 0.50 on January 10 to 2.82 on January 18.
The city’s two-week growth rate (the increase in the number of new cases in the past two weeks) rose to 891% on January 18 from 636% the day before. The province’s rate also rose from 1,189% to 1,636% over the last two days. – Rappler.com