Briones: Enough is enough

·2 min read

At first glance, the headline was alarming if not eye-catching.

Imagine, the intensive care unit (ICU) and the ward of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City were “in critical level” on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Based on the data posted on SPMC’s Facebook page, all the hospital’s 35 ICU beds and 262 out of its 352 ward beds were occupied.

According to SPMC Chief Dr. Ricardo Audan, the hospital was almost full because the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) patient admissions went up last week.

Now let’s go back to what the Department of Health (DOH) has been saying about critical care utilization rate, which refers to the number of ICUs, isolation beds and ventilators in use in different health and medical facilities for Covid-19 patients.

An occupancy rate of between 71 and 100 percent is considered a “danger zone,” while an occupancy rate of between 31 and 70 percent is considered a “warning zone.” Anything below that is the “safe zone.”

Using the health agency’s criteria, the SPMC is currently in the “danger zone.”

If you’re somebody like me who is not in Davao City reading the first few paragraphs of the news, you would think the Covid-19 situation there would be really dire.

I mean, the dictionary defines critical as “extremely serious or dangerous.”

But if you read further down, then you’d find out that the hospital is capable of expanding its bed capacity to accommodate more Covid-19 patients, although it faces the challenge of finding people to care for them.

So the situation isn’t as hopeless as one would initially think.

Audan said he already requested the Davao City Government and the DOH for the return of nurses that were assigned to the police and the Bureau of Fire Protection in the city.

He also said they will put on hold all elective surgery and convert the rooms into another area to cater to more Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, if you don’t read the entire article, you wouldn’t find out that private hospitals in the city halted admission of Covid-19 patients back in April when cases dropped and the SPMC has been the SOLE Covid-19 referral hospital since then, which would explain its high occupancy.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the patience to read through an entire article, especially if it’s full of numbers and jargon that are not familiar to the ordinary reader.

As a newspaper editor, that was my problem when the pandemic started last year. I was confronted by data, percentages and medical terms that I had never encountered before. I ended up consulting doctor-friends and googling information to help me understand.

At any rate, we need to stop the scaremongering. Let’s move on.

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