Northern Mindanao Medical Center raises Code Red due to COVID-19 surge

Bobby Lagsa

File photo of the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City.

At Code Red, the Region 10 COVID-19 referral hospital based in Cagayan de Oro City now dedicates 50% of its bed capacity to patients afflicted with with the highly-communicable disease

A huge surge in COVID-19 cases here has forced the Northern Mindanao Medical Center to raise it operating status to Code Red Friday, May 21.

Dr Gina Itchon, research head of the NMMC, made announcement which meant the COVID-19 referral hospital of Northern Mindanao (Region 10) would beef up its bed capacity dedicated solely for patients with the highly-communicable disease.

“As of 12:40 Pm May 21, 2021, NMMC decided to raise its status to Code Red. We are increasing our operating capacity to 50% from 40% last week. That means 50% of our operating capacity is now dedicated to Covid cases including San Simon CEREID,” Itchon said.

CEREID is the city-owned infectious disease hospital which started operating this year as part of its effort to fight back against a surge like the one currently sweeping the region.

“Our health care capacity is stretched. There is no more alert status beyond this, whatever code we do. If the number of cases does not go down, we are in a difficult situation,” Itchon added.

“We have never seen anything like this (since the start of the pandemic last year),” said Itchon.

She added that the NMMC noted a 150% surge in COVID-19 cases, and “there are no signs that the cases would decrease.”

There are currently 270 COVID-19 cases admitted in various hospitals across the city, but the NMMC is the apex government hospital that caters for referral cases for Northern Mindanao. Of these cases, 237 are from the from the city, 23 from Misamis Oriental, 7 from Bukidnon, 1 from Misamis Occidental, 1 from Zamboanga del Sur and 1 from Iligan city.

“We need to lower down our cases so our hospital can cope with the cases. So now we are asking private hospitals to help us in non-COVID cases because now we are all facing COVID cases. (While) it is still good we still have leeway, we can stretch a little bit. But after this, no more. So we need to bring the cases down, because we don’t know where to bring our patients,” Itchon said.

This city’s Critical Care Utilization Rate (CCUR) was almost at its maximum. The total Intensive Care Unit was operating now at 96.43%, its isolation bed was at 73.80%, and its mechanical ventilators used were at 72.22%.

“What NMMC doing right now is very timely, it is a game changer,” said Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscas Moreno on the hospital’s decision to implement Code Red. “What is important to us is capacity, the bigger capacity the better,” Moreno said.

Moreno however said that the better approach to was to lower the cases not only in the city but across Northern Mindanao.

“What is important here is to lower the cases. The solution is in the people, to help stop the spread of the virus. Now how do we do that? By abiding to the minimum public health standards,” Moreno said.

Moreno said lockdowns were not the solution but public participation.

“That is why it is important that we all understand. The government cannot stop the virus, there is no law that the virus will obey, No quarantine (measures) that the virus will follow, It can only be stopped if the person defends himself from being infected. So we must not let the virus infect us and others. If there is one reckless person that gets infected, it spreads, the more people get infected,” Moreno said.

Dr. Itchon said that dedicating 50% of the hospital operations to COVID-19, would affect other services of the hospital.

“NMMC caters to 300 outpatients a day, this will get down to just 150 patients a day,” Itchon said.

Itchon added they would also limit operating hours because the number of doctors are reduced. More doctors would be tasked to handle COVID-19 cases, so there will be fewer for outpatients.

Itchon said that outpatients should avail of the teleconsultation services of NMMC for patients who don’t need to come to NMMC. – with reports from Herbie Gomez/