Expressing fears that the local healthcare system would be overwhelmed by increasing COVID-19 cases and a surge in hospital admissions, the Catanduanes Medical Society has recommended that the province’s quarantine classification be upgraded to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for at least two to four weeks.
The grave concern of the local doctors was conveyed to Governor Joseph Cua last week in a June 18, 2021 letter signed by CMS President Dr. Geraldine Balmadrid-Rojas, who asked the chief executive to look into the recommendations of the CMS Committee on Covid Response.
The committee headed by its chairman, Dr. Rosemarie Reyes-Madayag, said the proposal for the implementation of the strictest quarantine classification should give the province a chance to reinforce the system of care, to treat those in most need, and to halt community transmission.
“If the present situation is not addressed, we fear that our healthcare system will be overwhelmed,” it stressed. “We may run out of the necessary equipment and supplies, and most importantly, manpower.”
In noting the alarming rapid increase in Covid cases in the province and the surge of admissions of Covid cases in the hospitals, the committee said that it sees clustering of cases in different municipalities which is clearly an indicator that there is a local transmission that is widespread in the island province.
“We only have three referral Level 2 hospitals, all others are Level 1 and infirmary hospitals. Our healthcare system will collapse of this surge will not be addressed,” Dr. Reyes-Madayag emphasized.
The findings of the committee ascribed the local transmission in the province to laxity in the implementation of quarantine protocols and minimum health standards especially in markets and other areas where crowding is most often seen.
Senior citizens and vulnerable kids can freely go out even in crowded places, it said, and some doesn’t even follow the minimum health standards.
The committee likewise claimed that there are still operational cockpits despite a ban while billiard halls are operating everywhere, with health standards not being followed.
The fight against the spread of the coronavirus is also being hampered by slow, inaccessible and inadequate testing, with Catanduanes allowed only 30 slots per day by the Department of Health’s laboratories, with the release of results “taking a long time,” it stated.
It also cited the fact that most cases, whether suspects, probable or confirmed, are on home quarantine, which is not an assurance of strict compliance to quarantine protocols.
The lack of vaccine supply and high hesitancy rate among the public are also blamed for the slow vaccine rollout while inadequate border control at Tabaco port has allowed the swarming of Locally Stranded Individuals into the island, the CMS committee bared.
The CMS stated that 30 percent of hospital bed capacity should be allocated for Covid cases, instead of the usual 20 percent, to address the surge of cases.
It pointed out that the three referral hospitals, presumably the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC), Catanduanes Doctors Hospital, Inc. (CDHI) and Immaculate Heart of Mary Hospital, Inc. (IHMH), are now operating at 50% to 80% utilization of its COVID isolation beds, with cases continuing to rise everyday.
“We see clustering of cases in at least five municipalities, most cases are locally transmitted and are household infections,” the committee bared. “We now have an increasing infection rate among healthcare workers which cut down the availability of staff in already undermanned hospitals.”
It urged the provincial government to implement and enhance proactive measures such as mandatory Rapid Antigen Tests and 14-day quarantine for non-APOR from areas outside the province, with arrivals to be scheduled every two weeks to allow decongestion of isolation facilities; strict compliance with itinerary for APORs from areas outside the province, with no engagement in leisure activities; coordination with LGU destination for all arrivals and truckers going around the 11 towns; penalties for citizens violating minimum health standards; use of Rapid Diagnostic Tests among symptomatic individuals and primary contacts within one week from day of exposure; provision of isolation and quarantine facilities by private companies under supervision of the Rural Health Unit; isolation of all positive cases in a dedicated Covid recovery facility, except for PWDs, senior citizens and young children who may be quarantine at home with adequate facilities and under monitoring by a qualified BHERT or healthcare worker; and, fast and massive vaccine rollout.
The recommendation of the local doctors’ organization will be weighed by the Provincial IATF on the week the number of COVID-19 cases for June could match the 170 recorded in May 2021.
Last Monday, June 21, 24 new cases were confirmed in the province although one of them is a native of Caramoan, Camarines Sur who is confined at the San Andres district hospital.
Ten of the new cases are from Virac, with four each from San Andres and Bato, two each from Caramoran and Bagamanoc, and one from Baras.
The highest-ever daily count follows 10 new cases on June 16, 15 on June 15, and seven on June 3, with the 128 total of the past three weeks surpassing the 112 recorded from May 1 to 22.
So far, the island’s total has reached 562 cases, with 467 recoveries and 19 deaths.
As of Monday, 76 are active cases, with 58 of them in quarantine and 19 admitted in hospitals.
Over half of the active cases are in Virac (29), Caramoran (13), San Andres (10) and Bato (7), while Baras, Viga, Bagamanoc, San Miguel and Panganiban have three each, with Pandan having two cases.
Of the 19 deaths, 11 were Virac residents while three each were from San Andres and Baras, with the other two from Pandan.