Cebu City’s health care system ‘able to cope’ with rise in cases

·4 min read

EVEN though coronavirus cases in Cebu City are on the rise, the Project Balik Buhay’s (PBB) data on critical care capacity management of private hospitals in Cebu show that the city’s current situation is far better from when the city was under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status in July 2020.

Assistant Secretary Anthony Gerard Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav), quoting a Jan. 27, 2021 report of the PBB, said the health care system of Cebu City, where major hospitals that cater to Covid-19 patients in the whole of Cebu are located, is “able to cope.”

“We are very much different from where we were in 2020, especially during the second surge or the time when we were under ECQ status. We are very, very, very much different from then,” he told SunStar Cebu in a phone interview on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Gonzales said a team led by Edmun Liu, PBB chairman for the private sector, updates critical care utilization rates (CCUR) in Cebu on a daily basis.

The CCUR refers to the number of regular and intensive care unit (ICU) beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients, isolation beds and ventilators in use in different health facilities.

According to the Department of Health (DOH) 7, Cebu City had 1,428 active cases as of Sunday, Jan. 31, after it logged 129 additional cases. Cebu Province recorded 47 new cases, bringing the total of active cases to 636.

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said Cebu City’s CCUR was 24.5 percent, as of Friday, Jan. 29.

The figure is considered safe as it is still below the 30 percent CCUR warning level, she said.

Of the 794 regular beds and 103 ICU beds reserved for Covid-19 patients in various private hospitals in the city, only 208 were occupied, she said.

Based on the PBB data, the CCUR was at a critical level of 86.3 percent on July 10 and at a warning level of 45.6 percent on Aug. 1.

Loreche said it’s the same data they have at DOH 7.

Although Cebu City was able to conduct more tests in June compared to other areas in the country, the challenge that time was the lack of hospital beds dedicated to Covid-19 patients, Gonzales said.

In July, only 694 beds were allocated for Covid-19 patients. The number went up to 720 in August and 763 in September.

Gonzales said hospitals in Cebu also struggled with the lack of nurses.

Initially, private hospitals only dedicated 10 percent of their beds to Covid-19. It took them a month to bring the number up to 30 percent, he said.

The same PBB data show that there are 1,884 health care workers assigned to take care of Covid-19 patients.

Of these, 1,836 are active in duty while 48 are in quarantine. Health care workers such as nurses are required to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine after they render their weekly shifts.

Gonzales also pointed out that unlike before, isolation facilities and quarantine centers are more established now with the presence of the New Normal Oasis for Adaptation and a Home complex, the Cebu City Quarantine Center, barangay isolation centers and Bayanihan Field Centers, which cater to mildly symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

The DOH 7 has also accredited 10 hotels to serve as quarantine facilities.

“How many contact tracing teams did we have in the past? Now, we have almost 200 contact tracers. We can contact trace within 24 hours. That means a person who has contact with a positive patient can be isolated immediately. That in itself is a big factor why our health care system will not be overwhelmed,” Gonzales said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Aside from the number of cases and CCUR, Loreche said other factors must also be considered before describing the situation in Cebu to be serious like the number of persons who test positive or the number of people who succumb to the disease.

Loreche said only 5.1 percent of the people who got swabbed in Cebu City last month tested positive for Covid-19, while the fatality rate was 1.2 percent.

Although these figures show there is no need to panic, Gonzales said the public must remain vigilant and they must not drop their guard.

They must comply with minimum health protocols in the midst of the pandemic, he said. (WBS)