The Toledo City Hospital is now like a ‘ghost hospital’ after 120 of its 150 staff were ordered by the city council to stop reporting for work and for the hospital to drastically reduce its operation. This prompted the massive transfer of patients to hospitals in neighboring towns.
Toledo City Hospital’s hallways, information center and delivery room looked eerily empty in the photos that Facebook user Jum Kenneth Evangelista Alcover posted online at around 1 a.m. on March 10.
In his post, which consisted of 14 photos, Alcover revealed that 100 workers of the hospital did not report for duty on Friday, March 9, as the Toledo City government issued a memorandum to the hospital administration to reduce operations from 40 beds to only 12 beds.
“We are forced to close OB-GYNE (obstetrics and gynecology) and outpatient departments, and we transferred our admitted patients to the emergency room so that the nurse on duty can attend to their individual needs,” said Alcover, who identified himself as a nurse in the hospital.
In turn, only one of the three buildings inside the hospital compound, which is located in Magsaysay Hills of Toledo City in southwestern Cebu, remained operational.
Acting Mayor Antonio Yapha, reached for comment by phone on Saturday, confirmed to Cebu Daily News that Alcover’s claims were true.
Yapha said there were 120 job order (JO) employees who were not able to return to their jobs and serve patients as a result of the Toledo City Council’s delay in approving the 2018 budget of the hospital.
With all the 2017 funds spent, Yapha said the local government of Toledo City could no longer shoulder the wages of the 120 JO employees, who include nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers and those in the utility or janitorial services.
“As of now, the city council is targeting to reenact the budget for the salaries of city hospital workers in 2017, amounting to P2 million, on or before March 31 so that other services aside from the basic ones can resume, and we can accommodate more patients,” he said.
But Yapha was tight-lipped when asked why the Toledo City Council failed to ensure that the 2018 budget for the Toledo City Hospital was approved before 2017 ended.
“The budget was already proposed last October 2017. I am not familiar with the exact figures, but I’m sure that P2 million is allocated for the services of our JO workers alone,” he said.
Yapha admitted that only a fraction of the hospital’s staff are permanent personnel.
The hospital is being run by around 150 employees, 120 of whom are contractual or JO workers, he said.
Massive transfer of patients
Since Friday, March 9, Yapha said only basic health services such as general check up and first aid were done in the emergency ward after the memo was issued.
The memo, which was dated March 5, was addressed to the chief of Toledo City Hospital, Dr. Bonito Zanoria.
Zanoria, in a separate interview, told CDN that he already anticipated receiving a memo from the mayor that he would have to let go of some JO employees.
But when it happened last March 9, he came to realize the memo’s effect to the hospital’s operation, as it meant letting go of 120 JO employees and requesting the Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to help transport patients from the city hospital to nearby hospitals that can accommodate them.
The nearest public hospital from the Toledo City Hospital is the Cebu Provincial Hospital in Balamban, located 25 kilometers north of Toledo City.
Alcover, who was on duty as an emergency room nurse when it happened, saw how the patients suffered when they had to be wheeled out of their rooms.
Alcover said he worked for six straight days handling simple to complex cases of patients.
Alcover and one doctor reported to work on the evening of March 9.
“We transferred the patients currently admitted in private wards to the emergency room. On Friday, we only accommodated up to 10 patients. Those who just learned that we’re operating under a 12-bed capacity sought for treatment in other hospitals like the Cebu Provincial Hospital in Balamban town,” he said.
The 30-year-old nurse said the 40-bed hospital can accommodate up to 50 patients in a day when their operation was still normal.
Alcover said he decided to post the photos of their situation in Toledo City Hospital to raise public awareness and to hopefully get the attention of higher government officials.
“Maluoy pud ko magtan-aw sa pasyente namo nga maoy nag-suffer. Akong tumong ra gyud nga ma-inform ang public sa nahitabo,” he explained.
(It pains me to see that the patients are the ones suffering because of this situation. I shared this on social media because I saw the need to inform the public about what happened.)
Double shifts, at least
Since the Toledo City government issued the memo for its hospital to operate on a 12-bed capacity only, Zanoria said only the 19 regular employees continued to report for work.
The 19 regular employees include five doctors (including Zanoria), eight nurses (including the chief nurse), five nursing attendants and one ambulance driver.
“This means that all of us regular employees have to work double shifts at least,” said Zanoria.
Due to lack of personnel to manage the Toledo City Hospital, Zanoria said they decided to cease the operations of the OB-GYNE department, animal bite center, several private wards and TB-DOTS clinic.
TB-DOTS or Direct Observed Treatment, Short-course (DOTS) is the name given to the tuberculosis (TB) control strategy program recommended by the World Health Organization.
With only one ambulance driver left, Zanoria said they have also reached out to the Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office for assistance.
“In the event that a patient needs to be transported to other places and the driver already clocked out, we need them,” he said.
Zanoria said they would be writing a formal letter of request to the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) and Provincial Health Office (PHO) to help address the lack of manpower in their hospital while they waited for the local officials of Toledo City to act on their problem.
“Our priority right now is the manpower. We’re requesting additional manpower from the DOH and PHO so that the hospital can operate back to normal,” he said.
“We’re even planning to come up with a P2.3 million as budget (for 2019) for salaries alone. Because we needed more health workers. The hospital is expanding and the population in Toledo City is growing,” added Zanoria.
For now, Zanoria said they would continue to call on the city council to approve the 2018 hospital budget as soon as possible.
“Lisod kaayo nga hospital unta sa mga katawhan, labi na sa mga pobre, dili makatarong og operate,” he said.
(It’s so difficult for a public hospital, which is meant to serve the poor, is not operating properly.)
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