Health workers and urban poor residents protested at the gates of the Dr Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in downtown Manila today to denounce its impending closure by the Benigno Aquino government on June 9.
Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) members said that as many as 2,000 patients per day, including hundreds of mostly poor birthing mothers, will lose free medical services offered by the 700-bed hospital when it closes.
Fabella employee Ramon Baldovino said that 1,200 health workers will also lose their jobs if the Home Guaranty Corporation (HGC) pushes through with its sale and privatization plan of the hospital, as well as the adjacent Central Market, Old Bilibid Compound, Manila City Jail and Barangays 310, 311 and 312.
The HGC is a government corporation.
Long the Philippines’ busiest birthing institution, the Fabella Hospital and School of Midwifery was recognized by the World Health Organization “as a role mode of the World Health Organization-Western Pacific Region Office for its essential newborn care programs, which have been proven to reduce infant morbidity and mortality.”
Government health officials however said that the hospital is being evicted because its buildings have become unsafe due to old age, made worse by the fire that hit it last April.
In a Philippine Daily Inquirer article, health secretary Janette Garin reportedly said that four of Fabella’s buildings have “reduced structural integrity” prompting the Department of Public Works and Highways to recommend that these are “immediately vacated.” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/784100/save-ph-baby-factory-mothers-appeal-to-doh)
Garin was also quoted by the same report that Fabella would be transferred to the Department of Health (DOH) compound along Rizal Avenue. The new building is projected to be finished by May 2017.
Fixable, but no budget
The protesters, however, said that the Manila City Engineer’s Office inspected the hospital facilities last May 17 and told them that Fabella’s buildings are still sound.
AHW President Robert Mendoza said that the engineers told them that the Aquino government just needs to provide funds to repair the buildings if these are really damaged.
Fabella failed to receive capital outlay funds for repairs and construction in the years 2011, 2013, and 2015.
Mendoza said that the government could also just buy Fabella from HGC, which would not be difficult as both entities are government owned.
Mendoza suggests that the proposed new hospital site at the DOH compound could just be used as an extension of Fabella, saying that the move would help the hospital cope with its ever-increasing number of patients.
“Fabella Hospital should be “modernize[d] at its present site, using public funds,” Mendoza said.
AHW vows to hold more protest actions as June 9 nears, as well as seek legal remedies to stop Fabella’s closure.
(Report by AL Ayroso / Photos by Danica del Valle and Jona Baquiran)