NEARLY 900 employees at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City have recently been infected with the Covid-19 virus, affecting the hospital’s ability to serve customers.
SPMC chief Dr. Ricardo Audan told SunStar Davao in a Friday, January 28 telephone interview that they were short of manpower after 891 of their employees, especially those who respond to patients from Covid-19, have also tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 amid the ongoing Covid-19 surge.
Of the 891, Audan said 544 are confirmed while the remaining 248 are still suspected and still awaiting test results.
The data also included 94 workers exposed to patients with Covid-19. Of the 94 people, two had traveled to Manila and four had been deployed to take part in a medical mission to Dinagat Island.
He said all 891 are fully vaccinated, while the majority of them had already received their boosters.
The hospital official said the majority of their employees had mild symptoms such as fever and cough. The majority of them have also been placed in home quarantine, while 30 staff members have been admitted to hospitals.
Audan said he noticed the increase in the number of cases among SPMC employees on January 15, when a majority of their employees tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 during the routine two-week sampling. Some of those swabbed were already showing symptoms of Covid-19 before being tested.
The spike in cases among employees also coincided with the increase in cases in the city, he said.
He suspected it had to do with the emergence of the Omicron variant, given that there were already 15 confirmed specimens detected across the Davao region as of January 27, according to the health ministry.
“No more grasping the Omicron, no more transmission in the Delta [variant]. Sa Delta, wala kaabot 200 [employees] ang na-infect, compared to Omicron nga 891. Hapit nami muabot og 1,000. Ing-ana kapaspas,” Audan said.
(Omicron has been shown to be more contagious than the Delta variant. Only less than 200 employees have been detected as infected with the Delta variant previously, compared to the Omicron where it is at 891. We are approaching 1,000. That’ is how contagious it is.)
Although he said that Omicron, compared to Delta, is a weaker variant, causing only mild symptoms. He added that the Covid-19 vaccines had helped protect their staff.
To address staffing shortages, he said the SPMC had adopted but shortened the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) guidelines, in which instead of seven days, fully vaccinated workers asymptomatic will only undergo quarantine for five days. days.
Audan said they expected some of their employees to return to duty after the weekend.
Meanwhile, Audan reiterated its appeal to the public to refer non-emergency cases to other hospitals. He said the hospital would only respond to non-Covid-19 emergencies as the SPMC is already overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. SPMC already announced it a week ago. SPMC will only cater for moderate to severe Covid-19 patients.
Based on January 26 data, its 87-bed intensive care unit and 455 ward beds are 100% occupied following the influx of Covid-19 patients.
“Actually, daghan mi pwede ma-expand, wala lang gyud mi staff (we can actually expand but we lack the necessary staff),” he said.
Audan said 85% of their Covid-19 patients are unvaccinated. Of the five deaths recently recorded, four are unvaccinated, while one is fully vaccinated but still succumbed to the virus due to multiple co-morbidities. On average, most of these patients are elderly.
Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio announced on Monday (January 24) that private hospitals have already started taking in Covid-19 patients due to the influx of admissions to the SPMC.
Covid-19 task force spokeswoman Dr. Michelle Schlosser said in an interview on 87.5 FM Davao City Disaster Radio that the city has authorized home isolation in response to the overwhelming occupation of facilities. Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Centers (TTMF) and hospital facilities in the city.
Schlosser said the city immediately incorporated assistance from private hospitals in admitting patients due to SPMC status.
She added that even city health workers at collection sites and vaccination centers are also testing positive for the virus.
“Our health care workers, not just at SPMC, but all other health care workers, be it his (at) CHO [City Health Office] or private hospitals, affected gyud atong caregivers (our caregivers are heavily affected). We try to compensate [for] loss of workforce,” Schlosser said, adding that they hope the growing number of positive workers will not hamper the city’s Covid-19 response.