The tale of two city hospitals


It has become a practice that every time I go home to Cebu, my first agenda is to go directly to the Basilica Del Santo Niño to light a candle before the image of the Holy Child. I call it faith in ritual practice.

I buy candles from traditional Sinulog dancers. These are the ladies who sell candles within the vicinity of the Basilica who, holding candles, do the Sinulog dance while chanting the prayer intentions of believers.

I have a favorite Sinulog dancer— a small lady who gave me her best smile as she says, “Maayung adlaw, Sir. Magpa-Sinulog ka?” I only knew her by her first name—Dolor, a septuagenarian who lived in a kariton with her pet dog.

Dolor has been my suki since 2000. She would often come running with her candles when she sees my car or the station service car. And regardless of the amount I gave her, she would light 10 candles for my prayer intentions.

Dolor and I have developed friendship. One time, when I was still based in Cebu, Dolor went to my radio station crying. She told me her dog was impounded by the city veterinarian. And for someone who has no family, her dog was her everything.

I tried to rescue Dolor’s dog. Unfortunately, I was too late. I was told that because no one immediately claimed the dog, it was sentenced to death in a gas chamber.

Once, she approached me, too, about her kariton which was taken, disassembled and using her word, “kinahoy” by the City Engineering personnel. To Dolor, her kariton was her home. Later on, she managed to settle in the corner of an abandoned building near the Basilica.

Last week, I went home to Cebu to visit my mother and our radio station. Like my previous visits, from the airport, I went directly to the Basilica. But no Dolor came to see me. I got worried not seeing my suki so I asked around and found out that my favorite Sinulog dancer is dead.

What moved me to tears was how she died— she was found lifeless, her body soaked and in a state of decomposition in a corner of the abandoned building where she lived since the city engineering personnel dismantled her kariton— her home.

Dolor died without seeing a doctor. She died not knowing what it’s like to be in a clinic or hospital. To her, the vitamins we gave her during our visits were medicines.

Her story is not new. Until now, many Filipinos die without even seeing a doctor. In fact, data says four out of 10 Pinoys die like Dolor for two reasons — poverty and failure of health literacy, according to the Philippine College of Physicians.

But there is another factor in Cebu City — politics in the reconstruction of the Cebu City Medical Center.

CCMC used to be a 300-bed hospital. It was a government hospital that catered to all residents of Cebu City. Notice the use of past tense. It is because for almost two years now, CCMC is literally a squatter in the Bureau of Fire and Protection compound.

The hospital was severely damaged by the 7.2 earthquake that hit Central Visayas in October 2013. Today, Cebu City is still raising the needed P1.5 billion to reconstruct the 10-storey hospital building. CCMC’s permit to build will expire in July.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is complaining of the lack of support from the national government. Rama could not get the support of the city council, too, to start the reconstruction of the ruined hospital. Blame politics. Rama is an ally of Vice President Jejomar Binay while his rival, Tomas Osmeña, who has a stronghold of the council, belongs to the Liberal Party.

Osmeña and his minions are doing all the filibustering to delay the project. Is Tomas waiting for his comeback as the city dad so he can take the credit for the hospital’s erection? At the expense of the poor constituents of Cebu City? Bad.

* * *

Last week, I rushed my 75-year-old mother to the Chong Hua hospital in Cebu City. She was vomiting when I got home on Thursday and because she has a history of stroke, I decided to have her checked by her doctors.

Mama was asked to undergo different laboratory examinations. She was likewise advised to stay at the hospital for observation. I was relieved it was nothing serious. But the way the hospital personnel acted while Mama was about to be discharged was alarming.

The laboratory examinations were done on Friday. I was told the results will be available the following day, Saturday, and if there is nothing serious with Mama’s health condition, she will be allowed to go home immediately.

Unfortunately, on Saturday morning, we were told that the doctors were too busy to read the results of my mother’s laboratory examinations. We were told to wait as they observe the condition of my mother.

Sunday came. At almost 5 p.m., we were told Mama is good to go and all we have to do is wait for the clearance from her doctors. The clearance was released at almost 6 p.m. After 6 p.m. I was told that we will be charged hospital fee equivalent to another day of stay.

Unfortunately, my available cash was not enough o cover the entire bill. Because I have reached the allowable ATM withdrawal that day, I requested that I be allowed to pay the balance in check. Or, at least, I be given another hour so I can raise the balance— either to ask my wife to send me cash or to borrow from friends.

At first I was told check was okay until another personnel stopped us from going home saying the hospital only honors manager’s check. And they don’t accept promissory notes.

Anyway, I was able to raise the balance at about 7 p.m. Still, and despite my plea and requests for reconsideration, Mama was charged hospital fee equivalent to one day for staying an hour more.

Chong Hua is a private hospital. Unfortunately, looking at RA 9439 or the Anti-Detention of Patients for nonpayment of bills, Mama’s case seems to be not covered by the provisions of the law. Section 2 of the said law says it does not apply to “patients who stayed in private rooms.”

Does that mean private room patients can be held for ransom by hospitals or clinics if they can’t pay?

I understand that Chong Hua is a business. And business is business. But Mama’s case was special— she was already held hostage by the doctors’ failure to interpret the results of her laboratory tests. She was made to wait for two days. And she was only given discharge clearance despite no-need-for-confinement results barely an hour before cut off! Was it deliberate so as to bloat our hospital bill?

So I wonder: how about other patients’ case? How are they treated? JUST business?

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  1. Chong Hua Hospital personnel’s actions and subsequent failure to correct what were clearly mistakes or fumbles show a serious lack of professionalism at the very least, and could be classified as criminal if it can be proven that they do this type of m.o. to collect more from their patients/clients.

    Sadly, this type of shameful practice is not limited to hospitals; sa Pinas pati mga banks and real estate developers (fill in the blank here) ay merong mga baluktot na pakana at kawawa ka pag wala kang pambayad. Kanya kanyang gimikan sa atin.

    Kaya, always ask questions and more questions, and ask for the names of those who answered your questions. Protect yourselves at all times; anticipate the gimmicks, the what-ifs, in writing pa if possible. Maraming mapagsamantala sa Pinas. It’s systemic. Proud pa nga ang mga nakakaloko eh.

  2. When I was confined in Chong Hua, they wanted to insert a needle into my vein in the arms. Beginning at 10 am, the nurse pricked me four times but could not find a vein, followed by another nurse at 11 am who did the same with negative result, at 12 noon the head nurse tried twice but failed. at 2 pm another nurse tried but failed, at 4pm another nurse supposed to be an expert tried twice but failed, at 6 pm a young chinese nurse tried only once but, eureka, she found a vein.
    My wife had pneumonia, was confined in ICU for about 20 days, was released not fully recovered, continued teatment at home, became serious again and was reconfined ten days and released as a hopeless case and died shortly afterwards. After her first confinement, I researched on pneumonia and discovered that pneumonia are three kinds: caused by microbes, by virus or by fungus and can be killed by specific antibiotics to which the germs are not “resistant”. To discover the kind of pneumonia, a sputum examimation has to be made. None was made during her first confinement but on was ordered by Dr. Chio during the second confinement, result showed pneumonia was caused by microbes and appropriate antibiotics were given to my wife but it was apparently too late. The disease had advanced beyond control. LESSON: If sick with pneumonia, have a sputum examination immediately so appropriate antibiotics can be given immediately. BEWARE of doctors who prescribe antibiotics “shotgun” style, hoping it will work. If you are a senior citizen, watch out also for full deduction of 20% discount.