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Virus surge strains hospitals in Luzon

/ 05:06 AM January 14, 2022

SITUATION ON THE GROUND A queue builds up outside Region 1 Medical Center in Dagupan City as residents await their turn to get vaccinated. —PHOTO BY RAY B. ZAMBRANO

TUGUEGARAO CITY—Hospitals in the provinces of Cagayan in Northern Luzon and Quezon in southern Tagalog have started feeling the strain of dealing with a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases barely two weeks into the New Year.

Cagayan Valley Medical Center (CVMC) in this city has stopped accepting COVID patients after reaching its full bed capacity amid the latest virus surge to hit the region, an official said on Thursday.

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In a telephone interview, Dr. Glenn Mathew Baggao, CVMC chief, said the hospital was already treating 213 patients, surpassing its 200-bed capacity for COVID-19 patients. CVMC is the main COVID-19 facility in Cagayan Valley that treats severe cases.

Baggao said he had already coordinated with the regional office of the Department of Health (DOH) in putting up a 64-bed community isolation unit near the hospital compound to address the surge.

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As of Wednesday, Cagayan had recorded 409 new infections, which raised to 1,673 its active cases. Its death toll stood at 2,190 with 12 new deaths, mostly from this city.

Infected

Three other provinces in the region—Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino—were placed under the more stringent alert level 3 from Jan. 14 to Jan. 31 due to the rising number of infections in these areas.In Quezon province, the increase of infected individuals who required hospitalization was also starting to take its toll on health workers.

Active cases in the province jumped to 955 on Wednesday after recording a daily high of 231 new infections on the same day. The figure was a huge jump from only nine active cases in the province on Dec. 22 last year.

Dr. Rolando Padre, director of the provincial government-run Quezon Medical Center (QMC) in the capital Lucena City, said that at least five doctors and five nurses had tested positive for COVID-19.

Critical status

He said the infected health-care workers, all fully vaccinated and had booster shots, showed mild symptoms and were under home quarantine.

He said QMC had dedicated four wards to COVID-19 patients last year but it closed three when cases dropped in December. As of Wednesday, the hospital was operating three COVID-19 wards and attending to 52 patients, 80 percent of whom were unvaccinated, Padre said.

Quezon was among 28 localities in the country that had been included in the list of areas under alert level 3 from Jan. 14 to Jan. 31.In Olongapo City, one of the city’s four hospitals was placed under “critical status” after reaching its maximum bed capacity on Wednesday.

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All six isolation beds of Zambales Medical Mission Group Hospitals and Health Services Cooperative had now been fully occupied.

At least 30 health workers at James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital, the main COVID-19 facility in Olongapo City, have also contracted the disease, hospital chief Dr. Jesse Jewel Manuel said in a radio interview on Thursday.

Manuel said 20 of the infected hospital workers were admitted to the facility’s wards while the others were undergoing home quarantine. They exhibited mild symptoms.

Olongapo has recorded a total of 5,684 COVID-19 cases, 223 of which remained active

The DOH said the occupancy rate at St. Jude Medical Center, also in Olongapo, was at a moderate level even as only three of its eight intensive care unit beds were available.

‘Red zones’

In Ilocos Norte province, 150 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Wednesday as it braced for the escalated alert level 3 imposed until the end of the month.

The cities of Laoag and Batac were tagged by the provincial government as COVID-19 “red zones” for logging 213 and 129 active cases as of Wednesday.

On Dec. 31 last year, the province had only 13 active COVID-19 cases.

The DOH said the utilization rate of Gov. Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital in Laoag was at “moderate” level as 68 percent of its 50 beds for COVID-19 patients had already been occupied.

At least 27 health workers and staff at Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital in Batac had been isolated after contracting COVID-19. —REPORTS FROM VILLAMOR VISAYA JR., DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., JOHN MICHAEL MUGAS AND JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT

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