By Morexette Marie B. Erram |March 11,2018 - 11:39 PM

An empty hospital hallway presents an eerie image of the beleaguered Toledo City General Hospital as cuts in the number of its employees prompted the transfer of patients to the Emergency Room area where they can be attended to by the remaining staff members. Below, Dr. Bonito Zanoria, chief of the Toledo City General Hospital, checks a patient with a stomach ailment.

Yapha: Council only follows ‘one person’; acting mayor is to blame, counters Osmeña

Dodong (not his real name) was surprised when he brought his mother, Lealyn to the Toledo City Hospital on Saturday for treatment.

Only one nurse attended to Lealyn 55, who was suffering from an asthma attack, and four other patients at the facility’s outpatient department.

“My mother is asthmatic so we went to the hospital to seek for another round of treatment. This is her third time in the hospital.

Before we got here, we did not know that there were only a few nurses on duty,” said Dodong, 16, and a resident of a mountain village of Lutopan in Toledo, about 50 km west of Cebu City.

On Sunday morning, only four nurses and one physician attended to eight patients, including Lealyn, who were confined for minor ailments — severe cough, colds, diarrhea and asthma.

The patients stayed in the out-patient department after the hospital management closed down the private wards located in another building in the wake of the order issued by Toledo City acting Mayor Antonio Yapha Jr. to downgrade their operations from 40-bed capacity to 12-bed capacity.

The delivery of health services has apparently been hit in the crossfire in the political tug-of-war between Yapha and the city council.

Yapha blamed the city council for delaying the passing of the hospital’s 2018 budget, which he said, forced him to reenact the P2 million budget allocated in 2017 for the wages of all the workers in Toledo City Hospital.

With a measly budget, the acting mayor ordered Dr. Bonito Zanoria, Toledo City Hospital chief, on March 9, to operate under a 12-bed capacity or as an infirmary only.

As a result, Zanoria let go at least 106 job-order (JO) workers, including nurses, administrative staff members, ambulance drivers, medical technologists, and utility workers because the city government could no longer pay them.

Yapha’s memorandum to Zanoria also prompted the hospital administration to close down its OB-GYNE (obstetrics and gynecology) department, animal bite center, and its Tuberculosis – Direct Observed Treatment Short Course (TB – DOTS).

They also temporarily closed offices and other health services in two of the three buildings inside the Toledo City Hospital compound in Magsaysay Hills, Barangay Poblacion of Toledo City.

Only the out-patient department and their emergency ward remained operational.

Yapha, a medical doctor who specialized in surgery, pointed to politics as the reason why the councilors failed to pass the 2018 budget for the Toledo City Hospital.

“The non-passing of the hospital’s budget has something to do with politics,” he told Cebu Daily News.

“The Toledo City Council is a very unified council. So unified, they only follow the orders and instructions of one person only,” he added.

Yapha, however, declined to identify the person whom he accused of having a hand in influencing the decision of the eight-member city council.

CDN called and sent text messages on Sunday to Toledo City acting Vice Mayor Joie Perales, city council’s presiding officer, but didn’t receive any reply.

The Toledo City Council was set to discuss the hospital’s 2018 budget on Monday.

But suspended Toledo City Mayor John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña blamed Yapha for what happened to the hospital.

“A cruel political ploy of acting Vice Mayor Yapha is the dismissal of (106) nursing JO’s which resulted in diminished services of the Toledo City Hospital,” wrote Osmeña on his Facebook post on Sunday.

“The report that the City Council ‘ordered’ the separation of (106) nursing JO’s is another fake news intended to blame the city council for the failure of Yapha to show leadership,” he added.

Both Osmeña and Yapha had been long time allies even at that time when the suspended mayor was senator and Yapha was congressman of Cebu’s 3rd district.

When Osmeña ran for mayor of Toledo in 2016, he took in Yapha as his running mate under their local party, Team Alagad. Both won.

But Yapha took over as acting mayor in September last year after Osmeña was suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman for a year for grave abuse of authority over his alleged refusal to release the quarterly real property tax (RPT) shares of Barangay Daanlungsod in Cebu.

But talks circulating in Toledo showed that the two allies were no longer in good terms.

Yapha just shrugged it off when asked to comment on Osmeña’s post.

“Why is it that it’s my fault? I’m just the acting mayor here … I did not sign up as the acting mayor, and that’s the city council’s job to pass the hospital budget for 2018,” Yapha said.

While waiting for the budget to be passed, the Provincial Health Office would send in additional physicians and nurses to augment the present manpower of the hospital.

Only 21 medical workers, who are regular employees, attend to the needs of the patients.

They include five physicians including Zanoria, eight nurses, five nursing attendants, a midwife, an ambulance driver, and a medical technologist.

In a statement released on Sunday, Dr. Rene Catan, PHO chief, said they would ask nearby hospitals such as the Cebu Provincial Hospital in Balamban town and the Jose Ma. Borromeo District Hospital in Pinamungajan town to accept patients from Toledo City Hospital.

Dr. Olma Dandan, Cebu Provincial Hospital chief in Balamban, assured that their 200-bed facility could accommodate patients from Toledo.

“There’s no problem with that. In fact, Dr. Zanoria already notified us about their situation last Friday. Our hospital is willing to accept patients even if they came from other towns such as Pinamungajan or Asturias,” Dandan said.

But for the remaining medical staff of the hospital, they still have to attend to the patients and inform them why they cannot be attended to.

“We’ll keep informing them that some of our departments have temporarily ceased their operations, and that they will be referred to other hospitals. It’s really a concern for our part since we’re supposed to accommodate them because we’re a hospital. But that’s the sad reality – we have no budget,” Zanoria stated.

Some laid off personnel, however, opted to report for work even without pay.

Diosdado Babor, one of the seven guards hired as JO workers, continued to patrol the hospital grounds at night even by his lonesome because he didn’t want the facility to be ransacked by thieves.

Babor, who was under the Civil Security Unit (CSU) of the Toledo City Government, had not been receiving his P10,000 monthly salary since January.

But he didn’t mind.

“All my children are working and are supporting me. So it is okay,” he said.
Although his shift ended at 3 p.m. from 7 a.m., he continued to patrol the hospital grounds at night to secure the hospital equipment.

“It is sad that there are no more guards manning the hospital. But it is the patients who are greatly affected here,” he added.

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