Editor: Once again Jim Baumbach gives us some insight into life in the Philippines as seen through his eyes. His spare prose omits the extraneous and leaves the reader with just the nuts and bolts of the story but the point is made, the message gets through. For anyone who hasn’t experienced a public hospital in the Philippines, perhaps this will give you an inkling. If you can’t afford the cost of decent care, too often you die. When it is one so young as Jim’s niece, perhaps it is even more poignant.
Last evening our niece was rushed to the Hospital with difficulty breathing due to asthma. Her condition was stable; as part of a Filipino family we left to visit her.
We live in the Philippines just south of Manila. The baby, one year old, lives in Manila in the Tondo section of the city. Tondo is the main slum of Manila. We arrived at the hospital around 6PM, and walked in the Emergency Room door. To a westerner, like me, it was quite shocking to see this room.
Upon entering, the first Ward, labelled, Medicine was for adults. There are 14 beds in the area with most of the patients hooked to IV tubes. One Doctor is in the Ward working alone at the time. The room is divided by a floor to ceiling wall but only extending about half way through the room. The other half of the room is labelled Paediatric.
Visualize an ambulance litter. From the top to bottom there is a sheet covering the litter and in the middle is a divider. There are 16 litters in this room serving 32 infant to age 3 year old children. Again, most are connected to IV tubes for hydration or as feeding tubes. The same Doctor is in charge of this section as in the Adult section but with one nurse visible on the Paediatric side.
Our niece was connected to her IV, serving as her food supply, since she cannot nurse due to her condition. She has a nebulizer being administered by her aunt. Her prognosis is good. After giving money toward the medical bills we return home.
Poverty reaches every person here in some way. Perhaps that is why many chose to ignore that which they feel they can’t change instead of changing the small part they can.