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Surge in COVID-19 cases strains Central Luzon hospitals

Death fast among critical patients, says Pampanga hospital director

TEMPORARY WARD The triage area set up at the lobby of Tarlac Provincial Hospital in Tarlac City is being used as a temporary ward for COVID-19 patients due to a shortage of beds. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, Philippines — Patients afflicted with COVID-19 have been arriving in ambulances at Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital (JBLMGH) here and would queue for hours in makeshift tents while health-care workers scramble to find available oxygen cylinders and beds.

The surge in cases in Central Luzon region has left only eight beds available out of 481 reserved for COVID-19 patients at JBLMGH, Dr. Monserrat Chichioco, the hospital’s medical director, told the Inquirer on Tuesday.

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She said the hospital had reached its full capacity on Monday but some beds were immediately vacated since “death is fast among critical patients.”Chichioco said two large tents had been set up behind the main building to accommodate COVID-19 patients and their relatives as they waited for rooms. Each tent has 10 beds and 10 oxygen cylinders.

The isolation emergency room can only serve eight patients at a time, she said. The disinfection of previously occupied rooms takes time.

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Based in this Pampanga capital, the government-run JBLMGH caters to patients from seven provinces in the region.

Central Luzon has recorded 1,903 new cases and 14,546 active cases as of Tuesday. The region had recorded 164,369 total COVID-19 cases since last year, with 145,842 recoveries and 3,971 deaths.

According to the latest data from OCTA Research on Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 cases in the region has been increasing in terms of incidence, or the average daily attack rate (Adar), which monitors the daily increase or decrease in infections for every 100,000 population.

MUCH-NEEDED BREAK Medical front-liners take a breather as they wait for a ride back to their assigned isolation facility after bringing a COVID-19 patient to a hospital in Cagayan de Oro City, where health workers are battling a spike in virus infections for over two months now. —PHOTO COURTESY OF AICY SANTOS/CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY INFORMATION OFFICE

OCTA said Bataan remained on a critical level while Bulacan, Pampanga and Zambales were on high incidence level. The provinces of Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Aurora were at a moderate level of incidence.

In Tarlac, all 46 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in 24 private and government hospitals have been occupied since Aug.11, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

Makeshift wards

Patients at the Tarlac Provincial Hospital were forced to stay at makeshift wards with oxygen support along hallways and outside the building.

At least 111 new COVID-19 cases were recorded in the province on Tuesday, raising its active cases to 995. Tarlac has recorded 12,013 cases since the pandemic began last year, with 10,672 recoveries and 346 deaths.

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In Olongapo City, authorities were planning to use a hotel at a local school to serve as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients and health workers.

The other isolation facility at Gordon College and James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, the main COVID-19 facility in the city, are nearing capacity, officials said.

Vaccines needed

In Calabarzon, Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla has called on the DOH to provide more vaccines to local governments in the region comprised of the provinces of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon).

According to Remulla, Metro Manila has become the epicenter of the surge of COVID-19 cases and Calabarzon, being its neighboring region, is also at risk.

In Northern Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno said the local government should “be ready with more serious and critical cases” of COVID-19 as infections kept rising despite a heightened quarantine status since June 1.

WAITING AREA COVID-19 patients wait in tents at the compound of Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital in the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, due to shortage of beds. —PHOTO FROMFACEBOOK PAGE OF GOV. DENNIS PINEDA

The city recorded 162 new cases on Monday, bringing its active cases to 2,646. Except for a few days in June and July, daily infections in the city have not gone down below 100.

On Monday, Northern Mindanao Medical Center announced that its dedicated beds for COVID-19 patients were full. Two private hospitals were no longer accepting COVID-19 cases.

—REPORTS FROM TONETTE OREJAS, JUN MALIG, MARIA ADELAIDA CALAYAG, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, DELFIN MALLARI JR. AND RYAN ROSAURO 
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