‘Iloilo City hospital very critical’

(From left) Iloilo City Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, Uswag Ilonggo party list Rep. James “Jojo” Ang, Senate President Migz Zubiri, Mayor Jerry Treñas, lone district Rep. Julienne Baronda, and former senator Franklin Drilon during the ground breaking of the 200-bed Iloilo City Hospital in San Pedro, Molo, Iloilo City. (Photo by Arnold Almacen/Iloilo City Mayor’s Office)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo City must develop its own hospital amid the inadequacies in the public health care system which were aggravated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Former senator Franklin Drilon, who supported House Bill No. 10464 that established the Iloilo City Hospital, said that it was important that the Iloilo City government would be the one to own, operate, and manage the city hospital, which broke ground on Friday.

Drilon said the COVID-19 pandemic showed the need for more medical facilities in the city and across the country.

He cited the 105,000 hospital beds, or 1.2 beds per 1,000 population, in the country as of 2020 based on the Philippine Health Facilities Development Plan 2020-2040 crafted by the Department of Health.

The ratio is lower than the World Health Organization’s standard of 3 beds per 1,000 population, or 330,000 beds when computed against the Philippine population.

The lack of proper facilities led to the inadequacy of existing hospitals and other healthcare facilities to provide sufficient care, especially to COVID-19 patients.

“We saw here in Iloilo City, and in the whole of the Philippines, we are really lacking in hospitals. That is why the inadequacies in our health system resulted in the deaths of over 800,000 people due to COVID. Patients have to go around just to look for a hospital [with vacancies], and hospitals are already spilling patients to their parking lot,” Drilon said in a press briefing.

“The [critical] gap in our hospital system can be attributed, in our view, to the lack of capacity for hospital beds, the capability or the lack of enough personnel, and the corruption that we see in the health system as exemplified by the Pharmally and Philhealth [scandals],” he added.

Drilon said that the national government has the duty to help Iloilo City in the face of the health crisis brought about by the pandemic.

This he said, was why he amended the bill in the previous Congress to inject P500 million from the national coffers for the construction and equipment for the hospital.

He hopes that the 50 to 100-bed capacity of the Uswag Iloilo City Hospital would address shortages in both beds and medical personnel.

“We need at least today, nationwide, 220,000 additional hospital beds. That is how important the effort of Mayor Jerry [Treñas] is. You know the estimate of when we can catch up? In 15 years, or about 2040 before we can catch up with the desired ratio of 3 hospital beds per every 1,000 population,” he remarked.

“Iloilo City and [Iloilo] province has a [combined] population of 2,509,525. So the bed capacity needed at 3 hospital beds per 1,000 population is roughly 2,500 beds in Iloilo City and province. We need 7,500 [beds in Iloilo] right now we have 3,100 beds. Therefore, we have a gap of roughly 4,500 hospital beds,” he explained.

The P500 million pesos from the national appropriations will be dedicated to equipment such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan, X-ray machine, and operating rooms.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas also mentioned another P500-million loan courtesy of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

The mayor will also seek advice from Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) chief Dr. Julius Drilon as to how the hospital should be run.

He also mulled inking affiliations with tertiary schools and consortiums with public and private hospitals to address possible resource constraints when it comes to hiring.