Tacloban, Leyte, April 25, 2003 By Miriam Garcia Desacada The Philippine Star 04/26/2003 - After initially refusing to allow a probable SARS patient from Eastern Samar to be transported here for treatment, Mayor Alfredo "Bejo" Romualdez finally allowed the woman to be confined at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC).

"My concern was only to contain the spread of the dreaded SARS," Romualdez said.

Early yesterday morning, Romualdez directed police authorities to ban the entry to the city of a 47-year-old woman from Barangay Maybocog, Maydolong in Eastern Samar, who is reported to be afflicted with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

A checkpoint near the San Juanico Bridge was set up to ensure that no vehicle could bring the patient to Tacloban City as reports of the woman’s arrival alarmed residents.

The Leyte provincial government, through Gov. Remedios Petilla, had also requested the EVRMC not to admit the patient for confinement at the medical center.

"According to the mayor, since the EVRMC has no capability to treat a probable SARS carrier, the patient should just be brought to Manila," Superintendent Arnulfo Cruz, Tacloban City police chief, explained.

EVRMC chief Dr. Adelaida Aspirin earlier admitted that the hospital does not have the necessary equipment for SARS. "The only thing we can do is isolate the patient," Aspirin said.

Dr. Nicolas Bautista, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the DOH who headed the investigation team sent to investigate the health status of the patient, however, recommended that she be brought to the EVRMC for observation.

In his technical recommendation, Bautista said the EVRMC was the DOH-designated hospital in Region 8 to handle suspected SARS cases so the patient can be managed properly, and her specimens taken and sent to Manila for examination.

DOH Regional Director Milagros Bacus disclosed that there are actually two hospitals in the city which can accommodate SARS cases - the EVRMC and the Bethany Hospital.

The woman, a domestic helper from Hong Kong who arrived in the country last April 10, was reported by The STAR yesterday to have died at the EVRMC. Ricky Bautista, the correspondent who filed the story, has been fired for misreporting.

In a letter to The STAR, Eastern Samar Rep. Marcelino Libanan said that the patient was never brought to nor confined at the EVRMC.

According to the patient’s profile and medical history furnished by the Eastern Samar Provincial Health Office, the woman has a history of exposure to a known SARS case in a library in Hong Kong.

Two weeks prior to her departure from Hong Kong, she was already coughing and had back-pains and a low-grade afternoon fever. She was diagnosed in Hong Kong as having a goiter problem.

On April 15, a day after her arrival in her hometown in Eastern Samar after staying a few days in Manila, she consulted a doctor in a private clinic in Borongan (the N. C. Sabulao Clinic) as the symptoms persisted. Results of a chest x-ray showed she had "interstitial pneumonitis."

On April 23, she developed a fever and was examined by health personnel from the provincial health office and by the regional epidemiologist yesterday.

Atty. Enerio Sabulao, former vice mayor of this city and uncle of Dr. Neil Sabulao, who treated the SARS patient in Borongan, said that his nephew was not confined at the EVRMC nor suffering from any SARS symptoms but is only under voluntary quarantine for 14 days.

He confirmed though that the N.C. Sabulao Clinic has been closed temporarily.

In a related development, the five-year-old boy who was reported yesterday as the first suspected SARS case in Nueva Ecija is Kevin Tumale, not Erwin, as earlier reported and he is from Barangay Tikiw in San Antonio town.

In a fax message to The STAR, a source who requested anonymity said the boy was visited by the medical team of the San Antonio District Hospital yesterday and was found to be doing well with no more fever or cough.

The source said it is now the boy’s 14th day of stay in Manila and thus, his ailment could not be SARS but may just be a reaction to the climate in the country. He was only labeled as a possible SARS case because he came from Toronto.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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