In GenSan’s hospitals, a long list of  COVID-19 patients awaiting admission

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 September) —  The health care system in this city is getting overwhelmed by the surging numbers of COVID-19 patients, many of them awaiting admission in hospitals that are experiencing shortage basic needs.

Antonio Veneracion, Chief Operating Officer of St. Elizabeth Hospital  on Friday noted a shortage in oxygen supply, lack of test kits and medical equipment and declining number of health care workers.

Several hospitals here have reported that many nurses and health workers have left their life-threatening jobs because of the hardships they experience and the low pay they get.

General Santos City. Photo courtesy of General Santos CIty FB page

A nurse who requested not to be named said they are being made to wear PPEs (personal protective equipment) for 12 hours straight with only a diaper serving as their toilet. “Mahal daw kasi ang PPE kaya di nila pinahuhubad agad upang maiwasan na magsuot ng bago” (We are told PPEs are expensive so they do not want us to dispose of them immediately and change into a new set).

An official of another hospital noted that the number of waitlisted COVID19 patients has been steadily on the rise since two weeks ago. Mukhang dumadami talaga. I think we need to do something already,” Ronald Velasquez, a board director of Socsargen County Hospital, said.

“There were only three to seven patients making reservations two weeks ago, last week there were already 35 who called for reservations. Early this week, there were 46,” he noted.

Velasquez  posted on his social media account on Friday that at least 70 COVID-19 patients are on the waitlist for admission, most of them unvaccinated and some partially or with the first of a two-dose vaccine.

He explained that the number from  a daily summary was 150 but many are double or triple entries as patients make  multiple reservations to ensure entry in any available hospital.

But Velasquez lamented that some patients have died while awaiting admission.

He narrated that a friend went to the hospital Thursday night with an oxygen level of 86,  holding priority number six so he opted to wait at home and was expected to be admitted Friday but died early morning.  A normal oxygen saturaltion leel is from 95 to 100.

Dr. Ryan Aplicador, head of the city government-run hospital, explained that a patient holding  priority number should understand that it does not mean that when there is a vacancy a patient next on line is automatically admitted. “We still have to check. When the vacancy is on the moderate isolation ward, a severe case patient cannot get it,” he said.

Doubts have been expressed on the capacity of hospitals here to handle COVID-19 patients. A relative of a COVID-19 fatality complained that had the government prepared adequately to handle patients, the situation would not have come to this.

Positivity rate in General Santos is now at 40  per cent and while infection is on the rise, there is not enough health manpower to handle the situation,” Veneracion said.

The local government must act on the situation with utmost decisiveness to prevent a collapse of the health care system here, he said.

According to the Department of Health’s regional office, as of September 10, the city has recorded a total of 10,099 cases, 974 of these classified as active, 9,654 recoveries and 371 deaths.  On September 1, GenSan logged 10,156 cases, 987 active, 8,831 recoveries and 338 deaths.

Local business leaders suggested that instead of spending money on lockdowns, it must help private hospitals subsidize their expenses and help boost their declining capability, like giving incentives to health workers to improve their situation.

Gensan Chamber president Elmer Catulpos said the local government can subsidize expenses of hospitals to ease the burden of health workers rather than resort to lockdowns and struggle in giving support to affected residents.

The city government has a program providing loans to businesses up  to P50-million. They can instead use the money to subsidize the hospitals, he said. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)