WV’s health facilities ‘ready’ for holiday injury surge amid COVID

Health authorities are bracing themselves for a possible surge in fireworks-related injuries as the public return to the usual holiday revelries after more than two years of lockdowns and restrictions because of COVID-19.

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

The Department of Health-Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH-WV CHD) is confident in attending to a surge in fireworks-related injuries (FWRI) as the public return to the usual holiday revelries after more than two years of restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press briefing, Dr. May Ann Sta. Lucia, officer-in-charge of the DOH-WV CHD’s Local Health Support Division, said they are mandated to follow the provisions of Executive Order No. 28, series of 2017.

The order was issued by then-President Rodrigo Duterte to regulate the sale and use of firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices.

Sta. Lucia emphasized Section 1 of the order which enjoins local government units to designate an area for a Community Fireworks Display, where the use of firecrackers is solely confined to. The use of firecrackers in residential and industrial areas is being highly discouraged by this edict.

She said that they are not expecting a surge, but are nevertheless preparing if it does happen, citing their recent declaration of Code White Alert across the region.

According to a 2014 Facebook post, the DOH defines a Code White Alert as “the readiness of hospital manpower like general and orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, internists, operating room nurses, ophthalmologists, and otorhinolaryngologists, to respond to any emergency situation.”

In this health care system alert level status, emergency service workers, and nursing and administrative personnel residing at the hospital dormitory are also being placed on an on-call status for immediate mobilization.

“We are not expecting [a surge], but of course we are preparing our hospitals. That’s the reason we declared Code White. In anticipation of the holidays, our hospital personnel must be on-call, because there may or may not be a surge of cases. Our hospitals need to provide adequate logistics in order to respond to whatever surge in cases there may be,” Sta. Lucia said in a presser.

“We don’t know what will happen, but we hope or expect for the best, that there will be no surge in cases because we are still in the pandemic, and we still have many problems to face. We don’t need to add to these problems with a surge in cases. We don’t want to see hospitals overwhelmed with [FWRIs], because we are still responding to the pandemic,” she added.

She also said that the DOH, among other government entities, has been advocating for alternative methods to celebrate the holidays, especially the New Year.

“The DOH has always been advocating for the use of alternative modes of celebrating the new year, including the use of musical instruments, partying, videoke, throwing coins, and using tambourines and other musical instruments or any object that would create noise,” she said.

Sta. Lucia cited their data as of January 5 this year, which indicated that FWRIs in the region were fluctuating – from 174 in 2015 to 125 in 2016, 88 in 2017, 139 in 2018, 115 in 2019, 42 in 2020, and 130 in 2021.

Negros Occidental logged the most number of FWRIs heading into 2022 (43), followed by Iloilo province (28), Aklan (16), Capiz (15), Bacolod City (10), Antique (5), Iloilo City (4), and Guimaras (1).

More males accounted for FWRIs (120) than females (10) between 2021 and 2022, with the most being boys in the age groups of 1 to 10 and 11 to 20 years old (37 each).

The most number of injuries were either blasts or burns without amputations (72), followed by eye injuries (40), and blasts or burns with amputations and blasts or burns without amputations but with eye injuries (9 each).

Affected body locations include the eyes (42), hands (35), head (11), thighs and neck (3 each), legs and feet (2 each), and forearm or arm, chest, and abdomen (1 each).

FWRIs were mostly caused by “boga” or improvised cannons (34), followed by other types of fireworks (28), kwitis (17), triangle (16), five-star (13), camara (10), whistle bomb (9), and piccolo and bilong-bilong (1 each).

As to how these cases were treated, 106 were treated and sent home, 11 were admitted, 7 were referred to another hospital, and 1 opted to go home, with no deaths on arrival recorded.

Sta. Lucia noted that the dates to watch out for FWRIs are December 26 and January 1, or the dates after Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“The patients would be coming to the health facilities after the new year, so there would be a lot of cases on January 1 as we have recorded,” she said.

In sentinel hospitals, 27 FWRI cases were recorded between 2021 and 2022 with at least one per day from December 24 to January 4, except for December 28 and 29. The most number was recorded on January 1 with 9 cases.

Only 5 FWRI cases were reported between 2020 and 2021 largely due to the pandemic, with the most at 2 cases on December 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, non-sentinel hospitals logged an inverse trend with 46 cases between 2021 and 2022, lower than the 95 cases in 2020. The highest for both new years’ celebrations in these hospitals was logged on January 1 (28 in 2021 and 37 in 2022).

Sentinel hospitals are the ‘official reporting sites’ which are solely referred to by the DOH central office when collating reports of FWRI figures in the country.

These include Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) in Bacolod City, the Western Visayas Sanitarium (WVS) in Santa Barbara, Iloilo, and the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC) and Iloilo Mission Hospital (IMH) in Iloilo City.

CLMMRH saw the most FWRIs coming into 2022 with 16 cases, followed by WVMC with 10, and IMH with 1, with the WVS not seeing any FWRI cases at the time.

Non-sentinel hospitals, while not included in reports for and by the DOH central office, are still recorded by the regional offices to provide a clearer picture of the FWRI situation.

These hospitals, and their FWRI cases on New Year’s Eve 2022, include:

–          Dr. Rafael S. Tumbokon Memorial Hospital (Kalibo, Aklan) – 9 cases;

–          Talisay City Health Office (Talisay City, Negros Occidental) – 9 cases;

–          Bailan District Hospital (Panit-an, Capiz) – 5 cases;

–          Sara District Hospital (Sara, Iloilo) – 5 cases;

–          Teresita Lopez Jalandoni Provincial Hospital (Silay City, Negros Occidental) – 4 cases;

–          Ignacio L. Arroyo Sr. Memorial District Hospital (Isabela, Negros Occidental) – 4 cases;

–          Angel Salazar Memorial General Hospital (San Jose de Buenavista, Antique) – 4 cases;

–          Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital (Passi City, Iloilo) – 4 cases;

–          Hinigaran Medical Clinic (Hinigaran, Negros Occidental) – 4 cases;

–          Victorias City Health Office (Victorias City, Negros Occidental) – 4 cases;

–          Dr. Ricardo S. Provido Sr. Memorial District Hospital (Calinog, Iloilo) – 3 cases;

–          Bago City Hospital (Bago City, Negros Occidental) – 3 cases;

–          Binalbagan Infirmary (Binalbagan, Negros Occidental) – 3 cases;

–          Don Jose S. Monfort Medical Center Extension Hospital (Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo) – 3 cases;

–          Vicente Gustilo District Hospital (Escalante City, Negros Occidental) – 3 cases;

–          Roxas City Health Office (Roxas City, Capiz) – 2 cases;

–          Iloilo Provincial Hospital (Pototan, Iloilo) – 2 cases;

–          Jesus M. Colmenares District Hospital (Balasan, Iloilo) – 1 case;

–          Ivisan Rural Health Unit (Ivisan, Capiz) – 1 case;

–          San Carlos City Hospital (San Carlos City, Negros Occidental) – 1 case;

–          Kabankalan City Hospital (Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental) – 1 case;

–          Murcia Rural Health Unit (Murcia, Negros Occidental) – 1 case;

–          Metro Bacolod Hospital and Medical Center (Bacolod City) – 1 case;

–          Malay Municipal Hospital (Malay, Aklan) – 1 case;

–          Merceditas J. Montilla District Hospital (Sipalay City, Negros Occidental) – 1 case.