Negros Oriental

Negros Oriental appeals Alert Level 4 status

Robbin M. Dagle
Negros Oriental appeals Alert Level 4 status

PROTECTION. Negros Oriental residents get jabbed against COVID-19

Provincial Government of Negros Oriental

The provincial COVID-19 isolation hospital capacity is at a critical 92% but Governor Roel Degamo says their hospitals also accommodate patients from Siquijor and southern Cebu

Fearing more economic setbacks, the provincial government of Negros Oriental has appealed the national coronavirus task force’s decision to  place the province under Alert Level 4.

While the province has one of the the highest COVID-19 case rates in Central Visayas and its hospital utilization rate is in the red zone, Governor Roel Degamo announced on Monday, October 25, that he was deferring the implementation of an executive order that adopts the Alert Level 4 guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

The province’s official page shows a 92% isolation bed capacity. In the capital Dumaguete City, all hospitals are now at critical to beyond full capacity: the government-run Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital (NOPH) at 113%, Silliman University Medical Center at 90%, Holy Child Hospital at 95%, and ACE Dumaguete Doctors at 113%.

Other areas in the Visayas like Bacolod City, Iloilo province, Iloilo City, and Negros Occidental were previously placed under the Department of Health’s Alert Level 4 when their hospital capacity rates hit at least 80%.

Degamo, however, said one factor for the province’s full hospitals is that they accommodate patients from neighboring provinces such as Siquijor and southern Cebu. 

High case rates

The governor said in a Facebook video that one of the reasons for the appeal is the “decline” of cases in the province.

While the number of daily new cases have slightly decreased in recent days, Negros Oriental’s number of active cases is still the highest compared to neighboring provinces in Central Visayas. The provincial health office recorded a total of 2,530 active cases as of October 25.   

During the provincial IATF meeting on October 20, local officials expressed concern that the “unexpected declaration” would “adversely affect local businesses and jobs,” according to a report of state-run Philippine News Agency.  

Negros Oriental is among the 14 pilot provinces placed under the new “alert level” system from October 20 to 31. Under the new scheme, limitations are set for high-risk establishments and activities, while the fully-vaccinated enjoy certain perks depending on the alert level. 

For the national government, the new scheme is supposed to be more relaxed than the old community quarantine system, as it allows full operation of less risky establishments and “non-essential” activities even underAlert Level 4. But recently, governors have also asked the national IATF for more time to study the new guidelines.

Vaccination rates in Negros Oriental may also complicate the implementation of the alert level system, which has specific conditions that require full inoculation of employees in certain establishments such as restaurants, barbershops, salons, and spas. 

As of October 25, 163,264 residents in Negros Oriental have been fully vaccinated. This is only 17% of the 908,939 total target population of people 18 and above, and 11.3% of the province’s total population of 1.43 million.

Staffing problems

Degamo also appealed to the Department of Health to help the province augment hospitals’ manpower. He said that hospitals have already limited their COVID-19 beds due to the lack of healthcare workers.

Dr. Liland Estacion, incident commander of the provincial IATF, said in a virtual press briefing that there were 20 vacancies for nurses in the government-run NOPH, but nobody wants to apply. 

“How can we accommodate people, how can we serve people nga kulang man kaayo? And then, that’s the reason why magka-COVID na kay sobra sobra na kaayo ang ratio of one nurse to a patient,” Estacion said on October 25.

(How can we accommodate people, how can we serve people if we lack people? The reason why our healthcare workers get COVID is that the ratio of one nurse to a patient is too high.)

“I’m now calling the deans of the school of nursing, naa’y daghang nipasar (many have passed the board exam), where are they now? Please do help our community,” she said. 

Vice Governor Mark Macias earlier posted pictures of COVID patients stationed at the NOPH parking lot, as isolation facilities and beds inside were already full. –