I like my parties to end with a bang but I prefer that bang to be a very controlled explosion. Unfortunately that was not the case towards the end of my birthday party. Momma collapsed and suffered a seizure. Apparently this had happened once before in the past and she was comfortably revived at home with some warm water and massages. After about twenty minutes of this home ready and some observation, I insisted she go to the hospital. Sara Provincial HospitalMoney was a primary concern for the family but some things are more important. You do what you have to do when you have to do it.

I don’t recall what time it was. It was late. I think maybe around eleven or eleven-thirty. Jennifer and I jogged in the dark to wake one of the neighbors who had a motorized tricycle. There was rumor of an ambulance service around the city but you won’t exactly find a copy of the yellow pages here in the provinces. We woke the neighbor, made it back to the house and loaded momma onto the tricycle turned ambulance.

My previous hospital experience (as you may have read) was not enjoyable. It was slow, it was disorganized and it was frustrating. That was a city hospital. Nothing could have prepared me for the provincial hospital here in Sara. Hospital LuxuryIt was all those things I experienced in Bacolod City and worse. It would not be an exaggeration to say my household pets have received better health care.

Triage consisted of a blood-pressure check and Momma’s blood pressure was exceedingly high. It was at this starting point that the ER interns recommended immediately transporting her to a hospital in Iloilo as she may have suffered a severe stroke [and might die within 24hrs]. While we’re having this conversation (and this is where my anger starts to boil) momma, with the help of Jennifer, gets off the hospital bed, squats on the floor with a bed pan, relieves herself and then gets back onto the bed. Flushing Features Not IncludedAnybody who has just suffered any kind of stroke (much less a severe stroke) isn’t going to exert the effort it took to make that movement possible. Long story short, she was not transported and she was checked into the hospital.

Within a short time of our arrival in the hospital we were given a prescription for miscellaneous medications, dextrose among them and, for the first time in my life, I ran across the street to obtain the medicines that the doctors would use to provide emergency care. The pharmacy was out of one medicine so we had to walk to the pharmacy next to it. When it came down to organized healthcare, this was absolute insanity. There was a pharmacy in the hospital but apparently it closed earlier in the day. Rumor has it that some of the local hospital admins have a financial stake in those pharmacies and thus it is in their financial interest to keep the hospital pharmacy open only during normal business hours.

Adding insult to injury, the hospital rooms are filthy. I don’t mean they could use a bit of tidying up nor do I mean they’re a bit cluttered. I mean they’re disgusting. The ‘public’ room has ceiling fixtures layered in inches of dust and the floors appear as though they haven’t been mopped since early 2000. Looking around, I am reminded of a few black and white horror movies shot in locations such as this.

The beds here are are antique metal frames with dirty foam mattresses. The rooms are no where close to being sealed and the only air-conditioning is a single electric fan that it is also covered in dust as it blows warm air upon the patients. The restroom (referred to as a comfort room) is a cess pool of bacteria with no sink for washing your hands. Bugs and lizards are free to roam about the hospital as are the mosquitoes. I spent a good portion of the night fighting off the latter and my only consolation was that in the event I did get malaria, I was already in the hospital.

I have no doubt that the hospital administration (if they have one here) would defend themselves by saying this is a poor community with inadequate funds. I would agree with such. Money is not abundant here and most things cost both time and money. However, I know many poor people here in the Philippines and none of them live in filth. They live without many luxuries and they have to make do with what they have but all they have is clean. The hospital may not be able to afford new beds but they could at least suffer themselves to boil some water and clean the floors. Our Private 'Public' RoomYou don’t need fifteen people in the room of a sick person, charge a moderate peso per visitor admission to help raise funds for the restoration of the building. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, ultra-modern health care system for the people here in Sara but it should be sanitary.

Suffice it to say that if I get sick to the point of hospitalization here in Sara, I will probably die if I’m unable to make it to Manila. I can only hope that walking into the hospital with my camera and a can of Lysol made an impression upon the appropriate people. Perhaps somebody with a bit of influence and care for the country will read this and things will be improved. The people of Sara deserve better. I look forward to removing Momma from this place and returning her to the cleanliness of our nipa hut.

****Update: Momma is doing better and back at home.

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