At the behest of local Chinese businessmen, Tzu Chi volunteers surveyed the typhoon damage to Baggao District Hospital. As the only medical facility serving all of Baggao, the hospital is struggling to care for the sick amidst damage to its facilities.
A crowd of would-be mothers are gathered outside the lobby of Baggao District Hospital. It was a Saturday, the hospital’s free prenatal checkup, when Tzu Chi volunteers decided to pay a visit to this clinic deep in the remoteness of Baggao.
The volunteers were in town preparing for the two-day relief activity for the families affected by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) at the local gymnasium. Days prior, however, they received a request from local Chinese businessmen to check on the hospital. It had suffered a great deal when the typhoon made landfall mid-September.
Arriving outside the hospital, the volunteers saw the first signs of Ompong’s wrath. Sections of the roof were stripped bare in the hospital’s left wing. Underneath those sections were critical facilities—patient wards, delivery rooms, and x-ray rooms—rendered unusable by the damage. Critical equipment was at risk of water damage.
Even more alarming, the volunteers enter the lobby filled with several bedridden patients and their companions. Because of the damage to the wards, the patients have to be relocated here for the meantime. Amidst its damaged state, the hospital continues to accept patients.
“We can’t use the damage as an excuse. At least we can give them as much service as we can instead of sending them to Tuguegarao City, which is inconvenient for the patient and his/her companions,” said Sharon Go, officer-in-charge of the hospital.
Inaugurated in 2013, Baggao District Hospital is part of the provincial government’s project to provide better healthcare to the remote areas of Cagayan. Its state-of-the-art equipment and facilities will allow the hospital to treat a myriad of cases without having to refer patients to hospitals in other areas, namely Tuguegarao City. In 2016, two small clinics in Baggao were integrated into the hospital to improve its capabilities.
However, this makes the hospital the only medical facility serving all 48 barangays of Baggao. It’s certified to take in ten patients into the wards at a time, but Go admits that they often admit up to three times that number. All the while, it faces shortages mainly in medicine and staff.
“Many patients come to our hospital, forcing our doctors to be on duty for two to three days. This, in turn, puts stress on the medical staff, which affects the quality of care,” Go reported.
Unless the roof and wiring can be repaired, Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao fears that it would seriously affect its ability to care for the sick.
“We’re worried also because Baggao is a huge town. It covers a land area of about 92,000 hectares. And most of the people here are farmers. If this hospital cannot serve them well, sooner or later they’ll encounter more problems and people in suffering,” said Siao.