Bodies of COVID victims pile up in Cebu City funeral parlors

Published August 3, 2021, 5:00 PM

by Calvin Cordova 

CEBU CITY – Admitting a patient in a hospital has become difficult here. Burying a departed loved one is even more difficult.

City officials admitted that cemeteries in city proper are full while cadavers are also piling up in funeral parlors.

On Tuesday, Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak and Dr. Alice Marie Aycardo, division head of the Cebu City Health Department, met with representatives of various funeral parlors to resolve the issue.

Tumulak said those who died due to COVID-19 are being prioritized for cremation and it causes cramming in funeral parlors.

“So we agreed that funeral parlors should advise the relatives of those who died not because of COVID-19 to just opt for direct burial instead of waiting for cremation,” said Tumulak.

For the month of July, 78 individuals died due to COVID-19, according to City Councilor Joel Garganera, chief of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

Last August 1, the city recorded 11 COVID-19 fatalities and nine on August 2. The city has tallied 943 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic struck last year.

The spike of COVID-19 deaths has contributed to the lack of burial spaces in six major cemeteries located in city proper.

“The problem really is we don’t have cemeteries available for new lands. They (cemeteries) only cater for exhumation,” said Aycardo.

Aycardo said there will be only vacancies when bodies that have been buried for at least five years will be exhumed.

For now, Cebu City residents are given the option to bury their departed loved ones in cemeteries located in mountain barangays.

Tumulak appealed to the public to bear the inconvenience of holding burials in mountain barangays.

“We don’t have a choice. We are appealing for understanding because we don’t have available cemeteries in city proper. They just have to coordinate with the city and we will assist them,” said Tumulak.

Tumulak said the city has also appealed to funeral parlors to avoid charging exorbitant fees.

“We learned that some funeral parlors have increased their charges. We asked them that the charge should range between P15,000 and P17,000 only because some are charging up to P20,000. We appealed to them not overcharge because we are in difficult times,” said Tumulak.

The problem on not having available cemetery is compounding the city’s woes caused by overwhelmed hospitals.

Acting Mayor Michael Rama on Tuesday visited the various hospitals in the city.

The visit came after 33 patients were forced to wait outside the Chong Hua Hospital while waiting for to be admitted.

Some of the patients who waited inside their cars or in the lobby were aided with oxygen due to difficulty in breathing.

During Rama’s visit at Chong Hua, there were no longer patients waiting outside the hospital.

Rama said the city is hiring more nurses to augment the city’s COVID-19 response as he promised to give a cash incentive of P10,000 to nurses who will be deployed in private hospitals.

Yvonne Caña, administrator of the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), said the city hospital is already full but it may expand soon as the outpatient department will be converted into a COVID-19 facility.

Rama on Monday instructed City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. to make sure that the first three floors of the CCMC will already be operational.

Caña explained that CCMC’s 20 COVID-19 beds are for patient with severe cases.

Those who are experiencing mild symptoms will be brought to the Cebu City Quarantine Center (CCQC), which has 160 COVID-19 beds.

“CCQC currently has 120 patients but mayor Rama has already ordered for its expansion by adding 250 to 300 beds,” said Caña.

The city’s active COVID-19 cases increased to 3,016 after it recorded 154 new cases last August 2.

The increasing COVID-19 cases and the lack of medical personnel have been the reason behind the hospitals being overwhelmed.

Dr. Anton Oliver Reposar II, medical director of CCMC, said 100 applicant nurses are being interviewed and will be immediately deployed once accepted.

Newly accepted nurses will receive a monthly salary of P33,500.

“We will accept new passers. We will reorient and train them,” said Reposar.

There were nurses at CCMC who recently resigned after failing to get their salaries for the past four months.

The CCMC assured that the issue on delayed salaries has already been ironed out after the city government allocated a budget for it.