ON AVERAGE, Dr. Jojie Padilla used to deliver five babies a day. After nearly 14 years on the frontlines of maternity care, she thought she had seen it all.
And then Yolanda struck.
With nothing but the beam of a flashlight to work by, Dr. Padilla delivered 12 babies alone.
“It was the worst, but it was an unforgettable experience,” the ob-gyn specialist told Sun.Star Cebu.
The super typhoon left the Severo Verallo Memorial Hospital, a 50-bed Province-run facility in Bogo City, almost crippled. Its power and water supply were cut off.
The other doctors and nurses could not get to the hospital right away because fallen trees and debris blocked the roads.
Padilla recalled she had to deliver the babies while the mothers themselves held a flashlight, and nurses attended to other patients with urgent needs.
The patients’ companions fetched water from outside, to clean the patients with.
As stress and trauma brought by Yolanda triggered labor and some premature deliveries, Dr. Padilla said they resorted to placing the premature babies in improvised incubators lit with gooseneck lamps, powered only by a small generator set.
While these happened, at least six nurses were busy attending to other patients, who sustained punctures and lacerations from fallen structures. Several elderly people who suffered from hypertension were brought in.
Padilla said she, along with the nurses, worked for 48 hours straight until help came in.
“Wala mi’y tulog ug tarong kaon (We hardly slept or ate),” she said. They would eat some bread dipped in ginamos or fermented fish sauce for their meals—an unlikely pair, but the only food supply they had.
“Lami raman pud diay (It tasted good),” she said.
Nowadays, Dr. Zoraida Yurango, officer-in-charge of the hospital, said they are certain they can endure for several days whenever a calamity such as Yolanda happens.
“In terms of medicine supply and manpower, makaya ra siguro kung pila ka adlaw (we can manage for a few days,” she told Sun.Star Cebu in an interview.
The Level 1 hospital has 69 personnel and six buildings. It caters to at least 200 patients every day, more than its capacity.
Yurango said that the Department of Health (DOH) has earmarked P20 million for the renovation and construction of the hospital. At least P8 million from the budget will be for the construction of the outpatient department (OPD), which will be built this year.
Dr. Yurango said they also received several donations, such as new equipment like a portable X-ray machine and examining tables.
In Daanbantayan District Hospital, a new OPD, emergency room (ER) and birthing facility will soon rise to serve the town’s residents.
Mansueto Luche, hospital chief administrative officer, said they will be more equipped and ready when another disaster strikes.
Although Yolanda made landfall in Daanbantayan, the 15-bed hospital was not severely damaged. Only a few patients came in and were treated only for minor injuries.
“We always conduct meetings to tackle what we lack or what needs to be done, so we are always prepared,” Luche said.
In Bantayan, Dr. James Nicolas Najarro recalled he looped a flashlight’s cord around his neck so he could keep stitching a patient’s wound a few hours after typhoon Yolanda landed in the island.
Dr. Najarro, acting chief of hospital of Bantayan District Hospital, said having no power after the super typhoon hit the island was among the challenges they faced while accepting patients, who incurred spinal injuries and cuts last Nov. 8, 2013.
The lack of water was also a problem; without power, their pumps fell silent. Luckily for them, the only district hospital in Bantayan Island only had minimal damage on its structure. The roof of the hospital’s entrance collapsed while the laundry and the kitchen areas were damaged.
“Vital areas were functional. There was some minor damage in the CR, na-repair na nuon (The comfort rooms have been repaired),” Najarro said.
A non-government organization pledged to repair the laundry and kitchen.
For the first two days after the typhoon hit, the hospital rented a generator just to continue their operations. A few days later, Najarro said, the generator set provided by the Province arrived.
The Capitol said it distributed generator sets to 15 local government units and four district hospitals, including Bantayan.
The Cebu Provincial Government reported that 70 lost their lives, 1,211 were injured and five went missing as a result of Yolanda.
According to the Cebu Province’s rehabilitation and recovery plan, Cebu needs P41.36 million to fix government-owned health facilities.
Cebu Provincial Health Officer Cynthia Genosolango said the generator sets given to the hospitals were a big help.
But aside from power, she said, another challenge the doctors and other medical staff face during calamities is monitoring the people’s health, to watch out for any diseases caused by the lack of clean water.
The Provincial Health Office is out to promote chlorination for safe water. It also recommended that vulnerable groups like the “very young, very old and pregnant women” be separated from a crowded evacuation center.
Genosolango said human waste disposal is also another problem in a calamity. A typhoon as strong as Yolanda is bound to tear down houses made of light materials. As a result, evacuation centers may be congested and suffer from a lack of comfort rooms.
One way of addressing this is to dig several pits and build makeshift toilets where the evacuees can relieve themselves and cover the waste with soil, she said.
“Mao gyud ni una (These are the priorities), safe and potable water for human consumption and proper disposal of waste,” the PHO head said.
Najarro, for his part, said trained personnel are needed, especially during disasters.
In Bantayan District Hospital, there were only two doctors, including Najarro, who took care of the patients. They attended to 12 persons who suffered spinal injuries.
Before typhoon Yolanda, there were seven nurses assigned to the district hospital.
Now, there are 15 nurses, after the Provincial Government deployed more personnel.
Genosolango said all the hospitals in the typhoon-ravaged areas in Cebu are now back to normal operations, but that two to three rescue teams must be ready to respond during calamities.
“The next time around (we hope that) we can respond better, we can respond faster. There has to be an efficient and functional rescue team in the hospital,” said Genosolango.
An international nongovernment organization called Project Hope “pledged to stand by the Philippines as it rebuilds health services ahead of the first anniversary of typhoon Haiyan.”
Project Hope delivered more than $23 million worth of donated medicines and medical supplies to the different hospitals in the typhoon-hit areas in the Visayas. It also “deployed more than 80 medical volunteers to assist local medical staff in the badly damaged areas of Tapaz on Panay Island and the Camotes Islands in Cebu Province.”
Among the district hospitals that received assistance were the Bantayan District Hospital and the Ricardo Maningo Memorial Hospital (RMMH) in San Fracisco in Camotes Island.
Dr. Nasaruddin Sheldon, Project Hope regional director for Southeast Asia, said they provided a generator set, medical supplies and incubator to Bantayan District Hospital.
Dr. Rogelio Ilagan, program director of Project Hope-Philippines, said they have also trained some health workers as part of providing quality care and efficient services.
Project Hope has also repaired RMMH and the barangay health stations of Barangay Calmante in Tudela, and Barangays Moabog and Cawit in Pilar.
In a press conference held recently in Cebu City, Matthew Petterson, deputy for the president and chief executive officer of Project Hope, said helping in the rehabilitation of other district hospitals is “something that we can take a look at.”