What part of his P100-billion annual budget is shading the four walls of some Department of Health (DoH) official’s office that makes him oblivious to the outside world and seems detached from the realities on the ground that is just waiting for the death of children he is supposed to care for?
“Right in the vicinity of where the DoH holds office the San Lazaro Hospital is still with closed wards and force poor patients to share mattresses.
The public hospitals under his watch — if one DoH executive cares to give them a glance — speak of the department’s performance, especially at these times when the general public could not trust their pockets for private health care, relying mostly on government support to live and continue living, when everything else is hardly affordable, but not government health care.
No, please! Not this one.
In not so ideal conditions, government could lag on everything, but not in providing jobs, education, housing, food and health care — not necessarily in that order.
These are the most basic of government’s tasks in providing service to the people. These are not the simplest tasks, but these are government’s main tasks.
In the wee hours that bridged Wednesday and yesterday, Sen. Dick Gordon paid the young patients at the wards of the San Lazaro Hospital a visit.
He did not choose the hours of his call, nor were they convenient for him who had just come from a rather lengthy all-senators’ caucus on the annual budget at their Pasay abode. He did it on a whim, triggered by the morning news the day before about a measles outbreak, blamed primarily on the public’s lack of confidence in government’s immunization program brought about by the Dengvaxia scare. That is for another topic as Gordon could not delay his outrage on what he saw.
Gordon said he could not stomach the sight of three child-patients sharing one hospital mattress. This does not count their parents and guardians present to assist them.
Two kids, afflicted with diseases, sharing a hospital bed is too much. But more?
Gordon asked why. Gordon said no! And right away.
As chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, Gordon instructed PRC Deputy Secretary Gen. Susie Mercado to coordinate with the San Lazaro Hospital management so they could bring in at least five tents that can accommodate more patients and decongest the San Lazaro ward.
It should have been a welcome offer from the PRC. At no cost to government. The gesture was made in response to a clear and present need.
Gordon and Mercado left the hospital at 3 a.m., tired after a long working day and exhausted by what they have just witnessed.
Not that they are new to seeing such medical emergencies, because as Red Cross volunteers, they have seen much worse. The Pinatubo, Yolanda, Ondoy and Ormoc — the biggest of disasters had seen the Red Cross work silently.
The San Lazaro visit should have been another of those silent calls. But after they had left, Mercado received a call from Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
The Health secretary said he is grateful to the Red Cross for making the offer. But he said there was no need for the tents.
Duque said he was advised by San Lazaro Hospital Director Eduardo Lopez not to accept the Red Cross offer. Lopez said he will instruct his staff to open a new ward for the new patients.
That is when Gordon blew his top.
The country is in the middle of a measles outbreak. We have not gone past our other health problem which is dengue. Our hospitals — both public and private — are redirecting patients to other health facilities that can still accommodate them and yet, here we are, right in the vicinity of where the DoH holds office and the San Lazaro Hospital is still with closed wards and force poor patients to share mattresses until the devil gives care — or takes anyone or all of them.
Now, it makes true the saying that it is a sin to be poor.
The poor man could not afford not just food, clothes and a roof. He also could not afford to live.
And even if many of them suffer, even if their children fall ill, they are not enough in numbers to compel Lopez to stick his neck out his office window and witness for himself the long line of sick children waiting — no, begging — for his care!