SPMC chief suspects delta variant causing Covid-19 surge at hospital

September 03, 2021

THE Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) has been experiencing a large volume of patients seeking medical treatment, which has been suspected to be caused by the highly infectious Delta variant, the hospital’s chief said.

SPMC Chief Dr. Ricardo Audan told SunStar Davao in a phone interview on Friday, September 3, 2021, this is not the first time the hospital has been overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

He said the number of critical patients waiting to be admitted is higher compared to the previous surge.

“This has something to do with the Delta variant. Kasi ang characteristics ng hawahan is mabilis ang transmissibility, mabilis makaparami ng pasyente. (Because the characteristics of the transmission is faster, infecting more patients.) So it could be a Deta variant,” Audan said.

While he said the confirmatory test from the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) would take almost a month, the current situation should already be assumed to be caused by the highly infectious variant.

The official also said most critical patients were unvaccinated.

SPMC still remains under critical level as both ward and intensive care unit beds are overwhelmed with admitted Covid-19 patients.

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

Despite the large number of admitted patients, Audan said they have not yet reached the overspill situation of India and some parts of the Philippines.

The SPMC chief said the 44-bed modular hospital, constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, helped decongest the patients in the hospital’s emergency room.

This is in response to photos that circulated online wherein the hospital were seen having long queues of patients waiting for their turn to get admitted to the Covid-19 ward.

All of the patients had been accommodated, he said. However, patients that could no longer be catered to would either be transferred to private hospitals or at the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City.

“Kung (If) worse comes to worse, the City Government and the Department of Health should also strengthen nila ang (the) private hospitals to expand their Covid-19 wards,” he said.

Since the One Hospital Command Center was strengthened in Davao Region, only few Covid-19 patients outside Davao City had been admitted to SPMC.

Meanwhile, he said SPMC’s two oxygen plants, which have six generators in total, could only produce 875 tanks daily, which is below its actual need of 1,125 tanks. This prompted them to source out from two private oxygen suppliers to fill the supply gap of 250 tanks.

To anticipate the continuing surge, Audan said the City Government is planning to expand the Covid-19 ward by utilizing the facility at the SPMC-Institute of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, which has a total of 25 to 30 beds.

Audan admitted that manpower remains a challenge for the SPMC’s Covid-19 response due to the lack of nursing staff.

He said they already merged some areas in the hospital to reassign some of the nursing staff to man the modular hospital.

Another challenge is their workers who test positive from the virus. Although he said all of them are only experiencing mild symptoms since the majority of its employees are fully vaccinated.

Audan, meanwhile, urged the public to continuously abide by the minimum health protocols not only to help themselves but also the medical healthcare workers who are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.