The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews) – Twelve cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 have been reported in the Davao region as of August 15, most of them in this city but as the cases rise, the chief of the state-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) remains confident that Davao City, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, “will not be like India … will not be like Cebu.”

Dr. Ricardo Audan, SPMC chief,  told a virtual presser on Monday that in a series of meetings with the Department of Health (DOH) and with Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, he assured them “we will not be like India, we will not be like Cebu” where the health care system was overwhelmed, where they ran out of hospital beds, mechanical ventilators, and oxygen supply, among others.

On Saturday, six days after he made that declaration, and with 1,059 more COVID-19 cases recorded in the city within that period, Audan told MindaNews he remains confident that the city is ready in case the Delta variant causes yet another surge.

According to the Department of Health, a Delta variant case can potentially infect five to eight persons.

Audan said preparing early is the reason behind that optimism. He noted the experiences of other areas here and abroad on the Delta case variants and the lessons learned from these. “We are anticipating more cases,” he said,  but “andam sayo, prepare sayo” (we prepare early).

As of August 14, the Davao region posted a total of 59,423 cases, COVID-19 cases, 33,010 of these in Davao City. Out of 7,619 active cases, Davao City recorded 3,413 or 45%.

SPMC, the country’s largest hospital, has an authorized bed capacity of 1,500 but presently has 1,200 beds due to physical distancing protocols. Audan said they aim to allocate 50% of its beds for COVID-19. At present it has 519, out of which 92 are Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds and 427 ward beds.

As of Saturday, August 14, the utilization rate was 82 of 92 ICU beds or 89.13% and 359 of 427 ward beds or 84.07%.

44-bed modular hospital; 23-bed ICU

One wing of the 44-bed modular hospital at the Southern Philippines Medical Center. Photo courtesy of DPWH XI

More beds will soon be added.

Audan told MindaNews on Saturday that the 44-bed modular hospital set up in the parking lot of the Orthopedics building will cater to the variant cases.

The facility was constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways Davao region. According to DPWH 11’s Facebook page, the 62-million peso facility features a nurse’s station, public address system, individual toilet and bath, air-conditioning, ventilation system with hepa filters, standby generator, and a medical gas system.

The first 22-bed wing has been completed and the other 22-bed wing is expected to be turned over this week. The facility will be inaugurated soon.

Audan on Monday said they were “looking for staff” for the 44-bed modular hospital. On Saturday, he said they are still completing the staff but added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is also helping. He said the first batch of nine doctors and nurses from the AFP arrived in Davao City on Saturday and another batch of nine is arriving. He said their tour of duty is two months.

Once the 44-bed modular hospital opens, SPMC will have a total of 563 beds for COVID-19 patients.

SPMC is also opening this month its newly-renovated 23-bed state of the art ICU which will be staffed by the same personnel before the renovation, Audan said.

This new ICU will be for non-COVID patients as there are already 92 ICU beds  for COVID patients, Audan said.

Additional beds for COVID-19 patients are also available in private hospitals in the city.

A room at the soon-to-be-opened 44-bed modular hospital in the Southern Philippines Medical Center. Photo courtesy of DPWH XI

3 oxygen plants

SPMC also has two oxygen plants with six oxygen generators that are fully functional with 873 tanks combined maximum production per day. According to him, the average daily consumption of the hospital is 1,223 tanks with the rest of the requirement supplied by Linde and Pryce Gases.

Audan said SPMC will also open this month its hyperbaric oxygen plant that is capable of producing 300 tanks of oxygen.

He recalled that in a meeting with the DOH and the city government, he vowed that SPMC “will help other small hospitals for the oxygen” by refilling their tanks if the situation warrants.

But he was later informed that the SPMC cannot refill the oxygen tanks of other hospitals because their permit from the Food and Drugs Administration is limited only to SPMC.

“But yun naisip ko. Ayoko lang maging Cebu or India (But that’s what I thought. I do not want to be like Cebu or India),” he said, adding “SPMC is willing to help” other hospitals.

In fact, he recalled, SPMC lent 10 mechanical ventilators to a government and a private hospital, provided they don’t charge the patients for the use.

Tulung-tulungan tayo (Let’s help each other). That is my leadership, my administration. I want to help everyone,” he said.

Audan also urged the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

As of August 10, at least 388,483 persons have been fully vaccinated in the region or 7.4% of  5.2 million population.  Out of 388,483,  Davao City has the most number of fully vaccinated, at 263,195, which accounts for 14.8% of its 1.8 million population.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)


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