Tatag UP

SiM opens

(AUG. 18)—Silungang Molave (SiM), a new Community Isolation Unit for UP Diliman (UPD), held a soft launch on Aug. 15, 9 a.m. at the Molave Residence Hall .

The newly-renovated Molave Residence Hall is in an acceptable distance from the various communities inside UPD, including Barangay UP Campus.

To ensure public safety, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs diverted vehicular traffic away from the section of Magsaysay Avenue infront of SiM so that only authorized persons will have to pass there.

What is SiM?  SiM is a 24/7 facility with a 39-bed capacity: 20 for mildCOVID-19 cases and 19 for suspected and probable cases.

In an email to UP Diliman Information Office (UPDIO), Dr. Eizadora T. Yu of the UPD COVID-19 Task Force Public Engagement Subcommittee said SiM is well-ventilated and patients will not crowd as isolation rooms are spaced out so more than adequate physical distancing is enforced among patients.

Male and female patients are placed in separate wards, with a special zone designated for asymptomatic patients (those who tested positive but do not exhibit any symptoms).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while some studies in health care settings, such as those in SiM, have reported the presence of parts of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in air samples, they were “in extremely low numbers in large volumes of air and one study that found SARS-CoV-2 RNA in air samples reported inability to identify viable virus.”

UP Health Service (UPHS) Acting Director Dr. Jesusa Catabui said proper procedures regarding hand hygiene, wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and physical distancing will also be strictly enforced among SiM staff.

“They won’t eat together, won’t congregate in rooms, etc. We will assure that proper donning and doffing of PPE and disposal of biowaste will be done properly,” she said.

This is important as the WHO said the “use of contact and droplet precautions by health workers caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients, and use of airborne precautions when aerosol generating procedures are performed” are among the comprehensive set of measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Catabui added that the health care workers (HCW) in SiM will be properly supplied with PPE and other needed medical equipment.

The facility is under the technical supervision of the Quezon City Health Department (QCHD) led by Dr. Esperanza Anita N. Escano-Arias, OIC City Health Officer, and will be regularly monitored by the Department of Health (DOH).

An initial DOH inspection on Aug. 10 showed that SiM is able to operate as long as the necessary staffing and amenities such as constant supply of water, electricity and even internet connection are made available.

Admission. Patients who want to be admitted can visit or call the UPHS Emergency Room (ER) at 8981-8500 local 111 for initial screening with priority given to UPD constituents (students, faculty, administrative staff, REPS and their dependents) and residents of Barangay UP Campus.

Patients referred by nearby barangays may also be considered. Regardless of origin, all patients for admission shall undergo prior screening at the UPHS.

Facility Manager Dr. Joy Gabriel said SiM will only admit patients between 20 and 60 years old, are not pregnant, with no comorbidities (ex. uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, cardiac/renal problems or immunodeficiency conditions such as cancer, HIV-AIDS and systemic lupus erythematosus).

Once admitted, those who have not been tested may go to the swabbing station. The swabbing station can also accommodate other clients as long as they have a booking appointment from the UPHS through the ER/COVID-19 Triage Physician on Duty.

Those who test positive but only have mild symptoms may remain at SiM and will be cared for by UPHS, who operates and supervises the facility including four additional physicians who will each be on duty for 24 hours, and three newly-hired nurses.

Aside from the medical staff, SiM also has a facility manager, food servers, a sanitary inspector and the appropriate maintenance staff.

SiM is for the community. Speaking at the launch, UPD Chancellor Fidel R. Nemenzo said the need to have a dedicated facility to quarantine those who cannot effectively self-isolate at home became apparent.

According to WHO, aerosol transmission in “indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out.”

And reflective of the national situation, UPD has also seen a rise in positive COVID-19 cases as new patterns of transmission emerged: within offices and inside households.

“Kailangan natin ng isolation area para sa ating komunidad  ̶we have realized the new patterns of transmission: mas mabilis sa office at sa mga bahay-bahay. Natuto na tayo sa Kanlungang Palma  ̶and our takeoff point ay ang mga natutunan natin mula sa ating shortcomings noon,” Nemenzo said.

Reassuring the safety and security of SiM as an isolation facility, Nemenzo said in his message addressed to the UPD community that “our experience in running Kanlungang Palma, our first isolation facility which closed on Jul. 11, 2020, has also given us lessons. We have taken these to heart, as we proceeded with SiM.  As a first step, we created a special committee that reviewed the operations of Kanlungang Palma and the UPHS. The committee, which includes an infectious disease expert from the Philippine General Hospital, recommended measures that will prevent future outbreaks and ensure the safety of our HCWs. This same committee will also be closely monitoring the operations of SiM in the coming months.”

He added that initiatives like SiM serve to increase the level of awareness on COVID-19 among the UPD community and that “as part of the national university, UPD is called upon to fulfill its commitment to serve the larger community. Taking care of the sick and vulnerable is part of this responsibility.  One member’s vulnerability is the community’s vulnerability.”

Joining Nemenzo at the launch were Catabui, Escano-Arias, representing the Quezon City local government, Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Aleli B. Bawagan, Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development Raquel B. Florendo, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ma. Theresa T. Payongayong, Public Safety and Security Office Acting Director John S. Baroña and UPDIO Director Sir Anril P. Tiatco.

At the end of the short ceremony, Catabui introduced the SiM staff members and conducted a short tour of the facility.