SPMC suspends face-to-face consultations and elective surgeries due to COVID-19 surge

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /16 January) – Face-to-Face consultations at the outpatient department (OPD) and elective surgeries will be suspended temporarily starting Monday, January 17, due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

The SPMC issued the public service announcement late Friday afternoon “in the light of Alert Level 3 and the increasing ID-19 cases in the hospital.” 

OPD teleconsultations, however, will remain open and “emergent surgical and urgent cancer causes” will be catered to, the SPMC said.  

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emergent Infectious Diseases (IATF) in its Resolution 156-A issued on January 12, placed the cities of Davao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato City and the province of Agusan del Sur under Alert Level 3. 

Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Dr. Kathryn Roa, an infectious disease specialist at the SPMC appealed to the public through a virtual presser of the Philippine Information Agency last Friday, to strictly observe minimum public health standards as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the SARS-COV-2, the virus that  causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19), can spread in the community faster than the Delta variant and could lead to more patients needing hospital care.

As of January 13, the state-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) reported that 37 out of its 60 intensive care unit beds and 231 out of its 308 ward beds have already been fully occupied.

Roa said the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant could lead to infection of the vulnerable population such as the senior citizens and immunocompromised, which may lead to more hospital admissions. 

She said patients needing hospitalization are those  who suffer from severe disease and may likely die from the infection.

Though patients with Omicron may develop only mild symptoms, Roa said it should not be taken lightly. She noted that cities in the National Capital Region are experiencing higher hospitalization rates.

“They are saying that Omicron is only mild, but why are the hospitals in Manila always full? This only means that you can still get severe disease because of Omicron.

She said Omicron variant patients who develop severe diseases have same profile as the Delta variant patients who suffer from more serious symptoms such as the senior citizens, unvaccinated, individuals with weak immune system, or patients with pre-existing health conditions, including, among others, diabetes, liver disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“This means that this may not cause severe disease to the degree of Delta but because many people can get infected with Omicron, the possibility of patients who may develop severe disease remains high,” she said.

To lessen the chances of getting infected with virus, Roa said residents should ensure indoor spaces are well ventilated by keeping windows and doors open because free airflow  lowers the “viral density in the room.”

Aside from observing public health standards, she encouraged the public to get vaccinated and avail of the booster shots to add another layer of protection against the disease.

She said all vaccines give protection against hospitalization, particularly from severe disease and death.

The Department of Health (DOH)- Davao reported 380 new cases in Davao City on January 15, bringing total cases to 55,682 with 52,097 recovered, 1,787 active, and 1,798 dead.

As of January 10, the City Government of Davao reported 1,247,949 individuals vaccinated with the first dose and 1,181,807 fully vaccinated. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)