Improving San Fran’s hospital

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MY COUSIN Danilo used to live in a hut located near Kanmanok, a peak overlooking the Tudela town proper. I would often visit him and his family while vacationing in Poro, one of the three major islands in the Camotes group. The towns of Tudela and Poro are located in the island.

Danilo was well-built and strong but was soft-spoken, tilling a tract of land in Cansabusab in the boundary of Poro and Tudela without much fanfare. His wife on the other hand was ebullient and talked fast. I would say she was the one who held the family together.

The Camotes group being separate from the Cebu mainland meant health care was a problem. When Danilo’s wife suffered complications during her pregnancy, she had to be brought to San Francisco town in the nearby Pacijan island, which is connected with Poro by a causeway bridge.


San Francisco had the only medical facility in Camotes at that time. But it was more than ten kilometers away from Tudela. The road was rough and four-wheel vehicles were few. Danilo’s wife died before she could be brought to the Cebu mainland where the better hospitals were.

Danilo lost the appetite for the farm after that. He eventually decided to bring his children to Manila where his brawn was useful for construction work. I have seen him only once in more than three decades.

I was reminded of that incident when I read the report that the Ricardo Maningo Memorial Hospital in San Francisco town is in need of doctors. It also stated that after decades of existence, the medical facility has actually remained to be an infirmary, which is lower in level than level 1, the highest level being level 4.

The hospital is also in need of doctors, which is not surprising considering its location. It’s not only San Fran that is encountering such a problem; other towns in Camotes, do too.

Tudela used to have a hospital set up by the late Fr. Joseph Wiertz in the ‘80s when he was the town’s parish priest. The facility was built from donations from well-meaning personalities, but it was difficult to operate because of lack of funds. It has been reduced to a clinic.

The reality is that health workers are difficult to hire under the current circumstances and with the situation in such far-off areas as Camotes. When I visited Tudela four years ago, it no longer had a doctor. I was told that the only way they could have one was when a doctor who worked abroad or in the mainland decided to retire in the town.

The situation has obviously remained the same. Pilar town in Ponson island, also in Camotes, is lucky to have two doctors, one of which is the mayor himself. The other is head of the Pilar Rural Health Unit, Jay Maratas. No doctor is interested to work in the town, Maratas had said.

Unlike Poro and Pacijan islands where the towns of Poro, Tudela and San Francisco are, Pilar is in an island which is nearer to Ormoc in Leyte than to the Cebu mainland. It is in a twilight zone of sorts, more neglected by the Cebu leadership than the other Camotes towns.

The Ricardo Maningo Memorial Hospital is a 25-bed district hospital, meaning that it is being funded by the Provincial Government, an advantage over the Wiertz-initiated medical facility. But it is also subject to the ups and downs of provincial governance.

Under former governor Gwendolyn Garcia, the services of doctors and other health workers were contracted from a private firm. Gov. Hilario Davide III has decided to change the setup by directly hiring doctors and other health workers for the province’s hospitals. Will he fare better than his predecessor?

The governor seems determined to make the plan work by visiting another province where direct hiring is supposedly successful. On this, I would borrow a favorite quip from the late Abe Licayan of The Freeman: “Let us to see.”


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 04, 2014.


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