Delta variant likely caused ‘spillage of patients’ at SPMC – official

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 September) – The government-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) has been seeing a “spillage of patients” needing serious medical care since last week amid another wave of COVID-19 infections believed caused by the more contagious Delta variant, hospital chief Dr. Ricardo Audan said.

Southern Philippines Medical Center. MindaNews file photo by GREGORIO BUENO

“We can’t do something about it. We’re the only government hospital, and we can’t turn them (patients) away,” Audan said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Since Sunday, the hospital has been seeing long queues of patients waiting for their turn to get admitted to the COVID-19 ward, he said.

He said all patients have been accommodated so far but added that if the SPMC could no longer handle more, some of them will have to be transferred to Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City.

“We are highly suspicious that it’s the work of Delta variant,” he said.

As of August 24, DOH-Davao reported 281 of Beta and 124 Alpha variant cases, which originally surfaced in South Africa and the United Kingdom, respectively.

On August 29, the agency reported 22 additional cases of the Delta variant, which originated from India, bringing the total cases of this type in the region to 48.

But the World Health Organization declared last Tuesday that Delta has become the dominant variant of concern in the Philippines.

As of August 30, the SPMC’s 448 COVID-19 ward and 92 intensive care unit beds had been fully occupied.

Audan added that the 44-bed modular hospital that the Department of Public Works and Highways constructed was already opened on Wednesday to address the “spillage of patients.”

The modular hospital accommodates moderate to severe COVID-19 patients, he said.

But Audan said that the situation at the government hospital is not yet anywhere near the experience of India the previous months since it still has a sufficient supply of oxygen for the patients.

He, however, added that the hospital’s two oxygen plants, which have six generators in total, could only produce 875 tanks daily, way below its actual need of 1,125 tanks.

This has forced the hospital to source out from two private oxygen suppliers to fill the supply gap of 250 tanks, he said.

As of Thursday, Audan said the SPMC has 55 mechanical ventilators for COVID-19, of which 12 are used, 120 mechanical ventilators for non-COVID-19 patients, of which 72 are used, 25 units of high flow-oxygen for COVID-19 patients, of which 21 are used, and 12 units of high flow oxygen for non-COVID-19 patients, of which 2 are used.

He said the government is planning to expand the COVID-19 ward by utilizing the facility at the SPMC-Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine (formerly Davao Mental Hospital) which has a total of 25 to 30 beds.

He said around 30 additional nurses would be needed to operate the extension facility.

He added the lack of nursing staff has been one of the challenges confronting SPMC during the pandemic.

“We merged some areas in our hospital to pull out the nursing staff just to have a team who will man the modular hospital,” he said.

He urged the public to religiously obey the public health standards to avoid contracting the virus.

“Even if we say Alpha, Beta, or Delta variant, it’s the same virus and the only way to protect us is really to continue precautionary measures,” he said.

He emphasized that even those who are fully vaccinated must continue to follow health protocols because vaccination does not guarantee that they can no longer acquire the virus.

As of Wednesday, DOH-Davao reported 972 new infections, bringing the total cases to 69,859 cases with 12,351 active, 55,306 recoveries, and 2,202 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mindanao, logged 38,110 cases with 5,626 active, 31,272 recoveries and 1,212 deaths.

Davao de Oro tallied 4,807 cases, Davao del Norte, 12,436, Davao del Sur, 6,832, Davao Occidental, 2,071, and Davao Oriental, 5,603. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)