Authorities hit discrimination of non-COVID-19 patients

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

The towns of Lambunao and Guimbal in Iloilo province decried the stigma and discrimination brought about by the confirmed local transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in their municipality.

The Department of Health – Center for Health Development in Western Visayas (DOH-CHD) 6 has confirmed that local transmission has been established in Lambunao with two confirmed cases including one death; and Guimbal with three confirmed cases and one death.

In Lambunao, local authorities expressed their disappointment to some hospitals in Iloilo that allegedly refused to treat non-Covid patients from the town.

One pregnant woman from Lambunao seeking urgent medical attention has been “denied” by hospitals in the province and city of Iloilo, according to Lambunao Municipal Administrator Sophia Halago.

“I received reports that the woman was about to undergo a Caesarian-section pero since indi pwede diri sa Lambunao because our hospital is dedicated to mild cases of persons under investigation (PUIs) so she was first referred to Calinog Hospital,” Halago said in a phone interview on Friday.

Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial Hospital (DRYMH) in Lambunao has been designated to treat mild PUI patients in the 3rd Congressional District.

Unfortunately, no anesthesiologist was on duty at the Calinog Hospital at that time.

Halago said the hospital tried convincing the patient to sign a waiver but she refused to.

Gin-intindi namon ang ospital kang Calinog kay siling nila wala sila sang anaesthology, gusto nila ang iloy mapirma sang waiver nga wala sang anesthesia pero indi man magpirma ang iloy,” she said.

The patient was referred to other hospitals in Iloilo and all of them refused to treat the patient, according to Halago.

“We are yet to verify pero ang tanan nga hospital nga gintawagan private man ukon public wala nabaton kay ang rason kuno gutok,” Halago said.

After several refusals, Halago said Pototan Hospital finally attended to the pregnant woman but the baby was already dead.

Daw indi man tani magbaton ang Pototan pero sang nabal-an nga patay na ang bata sa sulod gin-akomodar nila kag ginkuha nila sa sulod,” Halago said.

Another resident from Lambunao seeking for dialysis treatment experienced the same refusal from hospitals in Iloilo.

According to Halago, it was only when the attending physician of the patient intervened that a hospital finally accommodated the patient.

Hapon na kag na-accommodate siya and wala gid natapos ang dialysis kay gab-i na kag nakulbaan man ang pasyente sa curfew,” she said.

Halago also expressed her dismay over Janiuay Hospital which labeled a resident from the town of Lambunao as a PUI and allegedly failed to properly attend to the patient.

Gin-agi diri sa Lambunao ang pasyente but since indi kami pwede ka-admit ginrefer sa Janiuay and ginlabel as PUI kay ang rason kuno nahilanat. But this is unfair, he was not even labeled as a PUI and PUM here in Lambunao. Ngaa irefer pa namon siya kon PUI siya. Hambal man sang pamiya daw wala siya gin-atender and ginsapak didto,” she lamented.

Halago said the town of Lambunao is now clouded with fear due to discrimination with authorities unsure where to bring patients from Lambunao during medical emergency.

Gakahadlok kami subong kay kon may mga emergency, diin kami makadto? Gindesignate amon RHU, asta lang consultation and referral and indi kami ka- admit of non-Covid patients,” she said.

Iloilo 3rd District Board Member Jason Gonzales expressed the same concern in Lambunao.

“Following instructions from the Province, our district hospital has been forced to close its general and pediatric services.  As a result of this designation as a host hospital for COVID-19 PUI patients, coupled with the two confirmed infections in our town, our residents have been stigmatized and there are confirmed reports that they have been refused treatment in hospitals in Iloilo city and in nearby towns,” he said in his Facebook page.

Gonzales called for hospital administrators to be compassionate and avoid discrimination of Lambunao residents amid the crisis.

“Lambunao is taking a risk in treating PUI patients from different municipalities. Our frontliners are bearing the brunt of a designation that we didn’t ask for. In fact, our mayor campaigned against this designation. I am calling for compassion on the part of hospital administrators all over the province of Iloilo not to discriminate against Lambunao residents who seek treatment in your hospitals,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cynthia Ng head of the Hospital Management Office (HMO) in the province said they will investigate the alleged discrimination of the patients.

“We would appreciate an official complaint but it’s been taken care of. May meeting tomorrow ang mga chief of hospitals and we will fine tune everything basi may mga misunderstanding sa referral process,” she said in a phone interview on Friday.

According to Ng, her office has issued a memorandum directing all hospital chiefs to not deny and discriminate patients especially PUMs.

If ever may mga rason sila nga wala nagbaton they are answerable to that but ang mga doctors naton

ginahambalan nga treat all patients as potential Covid-19 cases so ang doctors maproteksyon man sa lawas, we must also protect our health care workers,” she added.

Meanwhile, non-COVID hospitals in Iloilo province are the Aleosan District Hospital, Cabatuan Hospital and Iloilo Provincial Hospital, Ng added.