THE intensive care units (ICU) beds intended for Covid-19 patients at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) have already been expanded to 77 beds from 35, but its utilization rate is still nearing full occupancy.

SPMC Chief Dr. Ricardo Audan said in a virtual presser on Monday, May 31, that the additional 42 beds were coming from converted private ward beds.

"At least, we'll put the minimum requirement for the ICU [beds]. Kinonvert namin yung (We converted our) single beds na pay ward into ICU kaya tumaas siya to 77 [beds]," he said.

As of May 30, 76 out of the 77 ICU beds or 98.7 beds are already occupied. While ward beds are also nearing full occupancy as 289 out of the 312 beds or 92.63 ward beds are already occupied. Overall SPMC has a total of 389 beds for Covid-19 patients.

SPMC’s ICU beds started to be in full occupancy on May 21.

ICU bed rate reached above 80 percent on May 3, while ward beds started rising 70 percent and above on May 17.

According to SPMC and the Department of Health's (DOH's) critical utilization rate, an occupancy level that is between 71 and 100 percent is considered a "danger zone"; an occupancy rate level between 31 to 70 percent is considered a "warning zone"; and under "safe zone" when it is from 1 to 30 percent.

Meanwhile, Audan said the hospital has been consistently experiencing 130 to 140-percent occupancy in its emergency room (ER) for the past months.

"'Yung ER nga namin, tinatawag nila parang every night midnight sale. Sobrang masikip (Our ER has been compared to an every night midnight sale because it is crowded)," he said.

With this, the hospital management is now working on establishing an extension ER.

"It's ongoing wherein we will use the lobby of the outpatient department," Audan said.

In terms of manpower, he said they have no problem as the personnel in the pay ward were also deployed to cater the Covid-19 patients in the expanded rooms and beds.

He also noted that the hospital has recorded rising of non-Covid-19 cases, wherein 91 out of the 135 beds are already occupied.

Also, they are catering to adverse events following immunization (AEFI) cases for individuals experiencing side effects after being vaccinated with Covid-19 vaccines.

Audan revealed that they already have a memorandum of agreement with the Davao Doctors Hospital (DDH) to cater minor cases like appendectomy, thyroidectomy to their hospital as charity.

He is also calling the help of other private hospitals to do the same.

"This is to mitigate admission of SPMC kasi 'yun ang kanilang matutulong (as it would be of big help)," he said.

In exchange, Audan said they will also assist private hospitals by lending them 10 ventilators as long as they won't charge it to patients in case they will already open their Covid-19 beds.

Meanwhile, Audan said they are still in need of additional manpower for them to continuously expand their bed capacity for Covid-19 patients.

Despite continuously posting job positions, the SPMC chief said only a few people apply for various vacant positions.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) already deployed 25 personnel from Manila who will serve and assist as nurses, and 10 personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Davao City, who will serve as doctors.

The personnel from AFP and BFP were pulled out in April when the city experienced a downtrend of Covid-19 cases.