Medical frontliners want ECQ for South Cotabato as virus cases rise

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 September) – Medical frontliners in South Cotabato province have appealed for the immediate declaration of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the area amid the increasing cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) local transmission.

Members of the South Cotabato Medical Society (Socomed) and officials of rural health units issued the appeal as they confirmed that a total of 25 medical and health workers in the province were already infected with Covid-19 since last month.

Dr. Rachelle Suarez Uy, Socomed president, said the province’s medical community is currently facing a difficult situation due to the continuing surge of locally transmitted cases of the disease.

She said 23 of the infected workers were so far symptomatic and confined in hospitals and isolation facilities.

“This is on top of the confirmed cases a few days ago, which already made a significant impact to the manpower capability of our hospitals here,” Uy said in a letter sent on Wednesday to South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr.

South Cotabato map courtesy of Google Maps

A report from the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) said 11 of the infected workers were from the Howard Hubbard Memorial Hospital in Polomolok town, seven from the City Health Office (CHO) of Koronadal City, two from the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital (SCPH), two from the Bontuyan Medical Hospital Inc. in Polomolok, two from an undisclosed private hospital, and one from the Covid-19 Center of the Soccsksargen General Hospital in Surallah.

It said two of the patients from Polomolok have already recovered and discharged from hospital isolation.

Based on Socomed’s monitoring, a total of 206 medical and health workers in the province are currently under quarantine after being exposed to their infected colleagues.

It said 49 are from Bontuyan Hospital, 37 from the Allah Valley Medical Specialists Center in Koronadal City, 36 from Koronadal CHO, 27 from SCPH, 24 from Socomedics Medical Center in Koronadal City, 20 from Howard Hubbard, seven from Dr. Arturo P. Pingoy Medical Center in Koronadal City, four from Polomolok Municipal Hospital and two from Heramil Hospital in Polomolok.

Uy said the lack of available personnel has caused the temporary closure of the SCPH’s delivery room and “crippled” the contact-tracing capability as well as other ground services of Koronadal CHO.

She said drastic measures should be implemented to slow down the transmission of the virus and save the hospital system from “unwanted collapse.”

“With this, (Socomed) is hereby asking for an ECQ to halt the movement of people and slow down, if not prevent, further spread of the virus in our locality,” Uy said.

Gov. Tamayo acknowledged in a Facebook post on Thursday morning that he also sees the possible collapse of the “medical human resources” in the province if the Covid-19 situation worsens.

But he said the national Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has set the authority to declare an ECQ to the mayors of affected localities.

“It can be declared if 25 percent of the barangays are already affected,” the governor said.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., IPHO chief, said he fully supports the Socomed’s call and already made same recommendation to officials of Koronadal City.

He said they specifically pushed for the implementation of a two-week lockdown in areas with recorded local transmission and clustering of Covid-19 cases.

“It is now being considered. They assured us that they will study it,” he said.

The province was under ECQ and general community quarantine (GCQ) from mid-March to May and has been under the more relaxed modified GCQ since June 1.

The provincial government closed down the area’s borders last Sept. 1 due to the noted spike in Covid-19 local transmission in Koronadal City and the municipalities of Surallah and Polomolok.

As of Wednesday night, the confirmed Covid-19 cases in the province already reached 231 cases, with two deaths and 88 recoveries. (MindaNews)