Editorial: Baby steps

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

WHAT do leaders of the medical community in Cebu have to say about taping pacifiers to the mouths of babes? What long-term harm, if any, does it cause? Is it merely frowned upon by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and breastfeeding advocates, or is it illegal? Is it an example of malpractice?

The case of Baby Yohannes, who turns two months old tomorrow, has held the public’s attention since his parents, Jasmine Badocdoc and Ryan Noval, posted photos of him on Facebook, with a strip of tape over his lips.

A committee made up of government officials recommended this week the filing of administrative, civil and criminal cases against the Cebu Puericulture Center and Maternity House (CPCMH) and some of its staff. But on the same day the committee released its recommendations, the hospital’s lawyer wrote the Department of Health to say that the case had been settled, because Badocdoc had signed an agreement not to blame anyone or file any case over the incident.


Badocdoc is now saying she signed no such deal.

All this confusion has obscured bigger questions—including questions about the overall quality of newborn care available in Cebu.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas has concluded its investigation, but has not made its recommendations public, for now. This is a pity, because the DOH and the medical community are in the best position to help an emotional public understand more clearly what the controversy is about, and what’s really at stake.

A report released in March 2013 by Unicef pointed out that the overall quality of newborn care in the Philippines, Laos and Indonesia, while showing signs of improvement, remained “a major concern since not all maternal and newborn services are performed adequately.” It pointed to limited knowledge and skills of health workers as one reason for this situation; the others include the unequal distribution of health providers (urban areas are better served than rural ones) and the difficulty of retaining trained staff.

The parents of Baby Yohannes and officials of CPCMH appear headed for the courts, now that the mother has cast doubt on that reported settlement. We hope the DOH will take the lead and help all of us see the bigger picture, as well as any steps the community can take to improve newborn care.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 02, 2014.


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