The Zamboanga Peninsula climbed up the third spot in the list of COVID-19-affected regions categorized as high risk by the Department of Health (DOH).
DOH data showed that Zamboanga Peninsula, a region that once had one of the least COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, registered a high-risk hospital occupancy rate of 71.5%.
It was the third highest, next to the Cordillera Administrative Region's 73.7%, and Cagayan Valley's 71.8% as of October 18.
The western Mindanao region's intensive care unit (ICU) utilization rate, however, dropped to moderate category at 64.8% from 87% on October 10.
Cagayan Valley registered the highest ICU occupancy rate at 87.8%, followed by CAR at 80.3%.
Two other regions in Mindanao with high ICU occupancy rates were Caraga, 71.6%; and Davao region, 75.1%. These two regions ranked 6th and 9th, respectively.
Zamboanga City, where the regional COVID-19 referral hospital is located, registered 210 new cases on October 18, bringing the total confirmed COVID-19 cases there to 19,242.
Although its active cases were down to 2,736 with 329 new recoveries, the city's overall hospital bed occupancy rate has remained high at 85%.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco has signed an order implementing the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) until October 31. The order reimposes the curfew in the city from 10 pm to 4 am daily.
How these measures would work on the ground remains to be seen, said Zamboanga broadcaster Ely Dumaboc.
“A lot of people do not follow the rules anymore. They just go on their way,” Dumaboc told Rappler.
In Zamboanga Sibugay, the number of new COVID-19 cases has eased up, averaging 13 cases a day in the last seven days from as high as over 40 cases daily.
But some health officials do not take the declining new cases with complacency.
Dr. Apple Cabilao Yambao, medical director of Malangas Emergency Hospital, said they were closely keeping track of new cases.
The hospital does not cater only to Malangas residents.
“We also accept patients from neighboring towns,” Yambao said.
The hospital has opened a COVID-19 treatment facility that can accommodate 27 patients.
The hospital inaugurated its P4-million digital X-ray machine on Monday, October 18.
She said the new equipment, the first digital X-ray in the province, is a big help at this time of pandemic.
“It boosts our hospital’s capability in serving COVID-19 patients who are suffering mild to severe symptoms,” she said.
Situated about 70 kilometers from the provincial hospital in Ipil, the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay, some COVID-19 patients in nearby towns prefer to seek treatment in the hospital.
The Malangas medical facility can help decongest the provincial hospital’s COVID-19 ward, she said. –Rappler.com
Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship