DEPARTMENT of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona assured Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon and Bacolod Representative Anthony Golez that the agency supports the expansion of the provincial hospital and the modernization of the regional hospital.

Marañon said Ona pledged either a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment worth P48 million for the hospital, or funding support for the construction of an extension building that will house the diagnostic center of the Teresita Jalandoni Provincial Hospital in Silay City.

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The MRI equipment is used to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues, bone and other internal body structures. The images allow physicians to better evaluate various parts of the body and determine the presence of certain diseases that may not be assessed adequately with other imaging methods such as x-ray, ultrasound or computed tomography (CT or CAT scanning).

Marañon said the Provincial Government will also expand the hospital from its present 100 bed to 200 bed capacity. The expansion of the provincial hospital will be realized by the end of 2011.

"Although we have already started with the expansion, it will not be completed this year. It takes time. I assure you that before end of next year, the expansion will be completed," the governor assured Negrenses.

The DOH secretary paid a visit to the provincial hospital Friday.

Marañon met with Ona Friday at the office of Golez, who invited the DOH secretary to Bacolod for the distribution of the agency's logistical support to the schools and barangays for the prevention of dengue and the launching of the implementation of the Department of Education's Anti-Dengue Program in Villa Esperanza Elementary School, Barangay Tangub, Bacolod City.

Ona also visited the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) in Bacolod City. He said he support Golez's recommendation for the modernization of the said medical facility.

"We will strategize in looking into the partnership with the private sector in modernizing the regional hospital," Ona said, as he admitted that the government is now facing budgetary constraints to fund health care programs.

Golez said it will take approximately P450 million to modernize the existing regional hospital. The hospital is usually overflowing with patients beyond its capacity, but the congestion has worsened with the onset of the increase in the number of dengue patients in the province and Bacolod City itself.

CLMMRH was originally built in the 1920s as a 200-bed capacity hospital. It was expanded in 1984 to accommodate 400 patients. With the recent increase in the number of dengue cases, the hospital now caters to 700 to 800 patients daily.

Despite the expansion to 400-bed capacity in 1984 and the huge increase in the number of patients at present, the manpower, facilities and equipment of the hospital still remain at the already obsolete 200-bed capacity level.

The congestion in the hospital has forced patients to lie in folding beds or long plastic chairs along the aisles, while the lack of equipment is illustrated by scenes of caretakers holding the dextrose of patients because there are no available dextrose stands, Golez explained.

"It's really a pitiable situation," he said, adding that he will propose a bill that will increase the capacity of the regional hospital from 400 to 800 beds.

Golez also intends to continue the construction of the Heart, Kidney and Lung Center, which was already started by former Bacolod City lone district Representative Monico Puentevella. That project will need another appropriation of about P527 million, according to Golez.

The six-storey Heart, Kidney and Lung Center might be trimmed down to a three-storey structure because the fund for the additional three storeys can be put to better use if it is re-aligned for the purchase of the basic medical needs of the hospital, Golez said.

He is also pushing for the strengthening of the rural health centers so that these barangay-based medical facilities can serve as catchment basins for patients with minor illnesses and help decongest the regional hospital. (Teresa Ellera-Dulla and Carla N. Cañet)