Central Visayas increases hospital bed capacity, reopens isolation centers as COVID-19 cases surge

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Cebu (CNN Philippines, July 19) — The Department of Health in Central Visayas is increasing the allocation of COVID-19 beds in hospitals and reactivating isolation centers as cases continue to surge in the region.

In a virtual press conference Monday, DOH Region 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said no Delta variant cases have been detected in the region but that the increase in bed capacity is necessary "in case there will be an overflow of cases in the different hospitals."

"We have not reached the critical levels,” Bernadas assured. “Our health system is still not overwhelmed, and we are still responding adequately even with the rising number of cases."

At present, the region has a 52% occupancy rate in both government and private hospitals, which are mostly located in Cebu Island. The rate last month was only at around 25% to 40%.

Bernadas said DOH hospitals are now expanding their COVID-19 capacity even before they reach critical levels. Safe levels for hospital occupancy should not exceed 60%, according to DOH standards.

He added that DOH-7 is also temporarily putting on hold elective surgeries, or those that are not medical emergencies.

The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office meanwhile announced that there would be delays in responding to emergency calls using their ambulances as these are mostly servicing patients bound for hospitals.

In a Facebook post Sunday, the CDRRMO said the public should only call for an ambulance during life threatening emergencies.

"This is due to our ambulances waiting outside emergency rooms of hospitals for hours and waiting to handover their patients," the CDRRMO Facebook post read. "Please expect our ambulances not being able to respond to your emergency calls right away."

For non-emergency medical needs, the CDRRMO instead advises the public to go to the nearest barangay health center or hospital outpatient department.

In the past two weeks, DOH-7 data showed Cebu province's COVID-19 cases increasing by 87%, with a daily attack rate of 1.48%, while Cebu City saw a rise of 61% in its active cases, with an average daily attack rate of 9%.

Lapu-Lapu City’s number of active cases increased by 100% in a two-week period, while Mandaue City posted a 41% jump and an ADAR of 5.6%.

DOH-7 will start the inspection of isolation centers prior to their reactivation. The centers were built last year and closed early this year as cases dwindled.