I REMEMBER a conversation I had with the United States consul in Cebu many years ago while we were waiting for lunch with a group of visiting American political science professors at his residence in Beverly Hills. I was interceding for a doctor friend whose visa application was denied. I explained that the friend’s wife, who was US-based, was due for surgery and he wanted to be by her bedside. He will not overstay his welcome, I assured him.
The consul appeared unconvinced, wondering why a husband should go through so much trouble to attend to his wife when there were doctors and nurses to take care of her during convalescence. I explained to him that being with a loved one during such times was a value that every Filipino grows up with, unlike the American. Ever the good sport, he responded with a smile.
The case of the watchers who are camping out at the Fuente Osmeña while waiting for news about their patients at the Vicente Sotto hospital reminds me of my encounter with the U.S. consul. They are mostly relatives of the patients and are referred to in hospital lingo as the “accompanying.”
It is usual for a patient to have two or more “accompanying” so they can take turns watching him or her. Because the hospital’s “one patient, one watcher” policy does not allow them to enter the building when they’re not on duty, the extra watchers stay outside where they eat and sleep while waiting for their tour of duty or for news about their patient.
Their situation was delicate especially because of the Covid-19 pandemic so that when Mayor Edgar Labella got wind of their plight, he decided that they be transferred to a safer location. A province-owned lot that is being used for parking was the first choice because it was nearer the hospital but Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia did not consent because she did not want to encourage more watchers to come to the city instead of staying home. Labella then decided to move them to the Fuente Osmeña circle.
They will have to move out, if they haven’t yet. They either have to return to their towns or find lodging in the city so they can be available to relieve the principal “accompanying.” But for as long as the hospitals are concentrated in Cebu City, we will continue to witness relatives converging here to be with their sick ones because being there with them is part of our value system.
That is why our officials should seriously consider establishing more modern hospitals or upgrading the existing ones in the province so that they do not have to bring their patients to Cebu City. They can also tap the private sector, particularly those who are already operating hospitals, to establish satellite hospitals in the province. Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital was able to do that with its SouthGen hospital in Naga City. With the right incentives, Chong Hua and UCMed could probably also be persuaded to go into the cities and bigger towns.
Or they can split the Sotto hospital into two and relocate them to the province, one in the north and the other in the south. It’s a long shot, but our congressmen from the province can trigger the move by filing a bill in Congress. Cebu City representatives should have no reason to oppose it since the Cebu City Medical Center shall have been fully operational by then.
The current pandemic has shown how burdensome it is for everyone when the patients who cannot be treated in the less-equipped hospitals in the province have to be transported to the city. When a patient is brought to Cebu City for treatment, he contributes to the congestion in the hospital. And when the patient and his watchers return to their towns, they have to be quarantined because they came from Cebu City.
This situation has to end. And the sooner, the better.
And by the way, my friend was granted a visa.