RITM reopens Animal Bite Treatment Center

File Photo from 2015 – RITM Animal Bite Treatment Center staff administering a rabies vaccine shot to a patient.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine Animal Bite Treatment Center (RITM ABTC) reopened its doors to patients last March 21, 2022 after almost two years since its temporary closure in view of the RITM COVID-19 pandemic response.

The RITM ABTC reopening follows the easing of restrictions of the COVID-19 Inter-agency Task Force in the National Capital Region in light of the declining cases. Moreover, the urgent need for medical care and treatment for animal bite patients was deemed essential by the Clinical Research Division (CRD) for the ABTC to reopen.

As opposed to the processes employed prior the pandemic, the RITM ABTC is now accommodating patients by appointment basis via the RITM Online Appointment System – the same website used for setting appointments for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing in RITM.

“In line with the goal of reopening the ABTC, as well as to regulate patient influx, CRD decided to utilize the existing Institutional online appointment system. With this in place, we can properly maintain minimum public health standards,” explained RITM ABTC Head Dr. Mark Joseph Castellano.

Aside from patients accommodated via the online appointment system, RITM ABTC also attends to walk-in patients given that there are still vacant slots for the day.

The RITM ABTC accommodates all animal bite cases regardless of the category of rabies exposure. This means that RITM ABTC can accommodate emergency cases that entail severe exposure of animal bites. But beyond 3 PM, animal bite category III patients will be accommodated in the RITM Emergency Room.

“Since rabies is a fatal disease, reopening the ABTC will be beneficial to a lot of patients who urgently need the care and vaccines/rabies immunoglobulins to prevent rabies,” said Dr. Castellano on the impact of the RITM ABTC to relevant stakeholders.

Frequent concerns observed among RITM ABTC patients include the urgent need for anti-rabies vaccines due to animal bites or scratches, and delayed administration of relevant medicines and vaccines.

The number of patients observed in the RITM ABTC since its reopening has relatively decreased compared to the number of patients accommodated prior the pandemic. The daily average number of patients recently recorded in RITM ABTC is now at 20, as opposed to the daily average of 300 patients accommodated in RITM ABTC prior the pandemic. As for the weekly average, RITM ABTC now accommodates approximately 50 patients which is three times lower than the weekly number of patients served by RITM ABTC pre-COVID-19. The number of patients is expected to increase in the coming days.

“Once the alert level goes down to zero, and/or the pandemic ends, we expect an increase in the number of patients just like in the pre-pandemic period, and RITM ABTC will be ready for that,” said Dr. Castellano on the expectations of the RITM ABTC in delivering its services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In light of the recent renovation and rehabilitation of RITM facilities, the RITM ABTC is now temporarily relocated in the first room of the Clinical Trial Unit of the RITM Balmis Building. The RITM ABTC is open from Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM. To book an appointment with RITM ABTC specialists, visit apps.ritm.gov.ph/appointment

by Anel Azel Dimaano