THE policy was imposed back on June 9, 2020.
The Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City no longer allows visitors and watchers inside the hospital unless the patient is a minor or a senior citizen who is suffering from a chronic disease. But if a patient happens to test positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), then both visitors and watchers are out of the question to prevent the highly infectious disease from spreading.
The medical facility owned by the Philippine Government caters to Cebuanos, including residents of Cebu City, providing health care services that are “available, affordable, accessible and acceptable to all regardless of social status.”
According to its website, the VSMMC has developed specialty and sub-specialties under different clinical departments, including “General Surgery, Neuro Surgery, Uro-Surgery, Internal Medicine, Obstetrics Gynecology, Orthopedics, Otorhinolaryngology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesiology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Emergency Medicine (which is the first of its kind outside Metro Manila), Family Medicine and Pediatrics, Rehabilitation Medicine Department, Dental Services Unit and the National Voluntary Blood Services Program.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country in March, the VSMMC was one of five public hospitals nationwide picked to house a subnational laboratory to screen for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
Because of the many affordable services it offers, the hospital attracts many patients and the people who accompany them, a fact that shouldn’t have escaped lawyer Rey Cris Panugaling, VSMMC Information, Communications and Strategy Management head. Yet he said he was surprised by the crowd that had gathered outside the VSMMC, people who weren’t allowed inside hospital premises because of its current “no visitors, no watchers” policy.
Did it never dawn on the VSMMC administration that this was bound to happen? That a Facebook (FB) Live broadcast or a post on its official FB page announcing the policy would not deter people from coming to make sure their loved ones are okay, especially amid the health crisis.
Of the 222 “watchers” found making the sidewalk outside the VSMMC their home, 2019 were there because they had a relative who had given or was about to give birth inside the hospital.
They would still be there, exposed to the elements and to diseases, if not for a SunStar Cebu photographer who took their photo and posted it on the social network.
They would have remained invisible to the likes of Panugaling and to the rest of the public, marginalized by an unseen enemy that continues to strike fear in the hearts of many.