A Glimpse into the Contrasting Realities of Two Hospitals

Last July, my dad got into a vehicular accident. Someone from our neighborhood came to our home at past 8:00PM to inform us about it. I rushed to the hospital dreading the worst. The only thing I knew at that time was that my dad’s car hit a truck. I was in shock and mostly overwhelmed by fear. I didn’t have much confidence that my dad’s ancient car would offer much protection from a ten-wheeler truck.

I was told that my dad was rushed at the biggest public hospital in the city by the emergency responders. The last time I went to that hospital was when I was a kid, which was decades ago. A lot has changed, which was why I got lost a bit before I finally located the emergency room. The first thing I saw when I went through the door was the flash of green that was my dad’s shirt. He was lying down on a bed near the entrance.

I approached slowly, taking in the sight of him bloodied and alive. I remember that it was right at that moment that I began to breathe normally again. There wasn’t much blood as I expected based from the initial news I’ve heard. The guy who was with him when the accident happened was sitting on a chair at my dad’s bedside equally bloodied. It was only after I saw my dad that I began to notice everything around me.

I was in a huge emergency room filled beyond normal capacity. Nurses and doctors were greatly outnumbered by patients waiting for their turn for emergency care. There were policemen, emergency responders, and all sorts of people I don’t usually see in the emergency rooms I’ve rushed relatives and friends into in the past, except maybe at the PGH.

My dad’s companion was lucid enough to tell me what happened. Apparently, they’ve been in the emergency room for over two hours. I guessed from what I saw that they’ve been pretty much left alone after the initial checks were made. I noticed that there were broken glass from the car’s windshiled embedded in my dad’s and his companion’s foreheads.

My dad was asleep when I got there. Soon after he woke up, he started complaining of severe chest pain. He wouldn’t stop despite our repeated assurances that someone will be there soon to take care of him. My fear resurfaced thinking that maybe something was terribly wrong. There was no sign of any nurse or doctor coming to my dad’s aid. In the midst of all those patients needing medical care, I felt that my dad’s complaints were just part of the everyday scene. My sister and I decided to transfer my dad and his companion in a private hospital so they can be given immediate care.

It took a while for us to process the paperwork and arrange for an ambulance – not for lack of trying to speed up the process. It’s not easy getting the attention of the handful of staff. There were papers to fill up, bills to pay, and an ambulance use to arrange. I felt that the staff we were dealing with were so used to seeing the pain and agony of others that they’ve learned to detach themselves from it. The sense of urgency that we needed as an assurance at that point was sadly lacking.

I stood by my dad’s bedside in growing panic as we waited for all the paperwork to be finished. He kept saying that he couldn’t breathe and that his chest hurt. I just sought comfort from the fact that the nurses sitting in the admission desk were looking at him. I figured they’re probably trained enough to know that his condition was not as critical as he and I thought it was at that moment. Oddly enough, I didn’t get angry for the lack of attention or assistance. I thought that there’s  only so much a few staff can handle given the number of patients in that emergency room.

Finally, we managed to transfer my dad in a private hospital a few kilometers away. As expected, they were given immediate care at the emergency room. But that’s about the best thing I can say about that particular hospital. The rest of our stay there was both disappointing and frustrating. Mostly because of the quality of service, which my sisters and I found sorely lacking.

Despite my harrowing experience at the public hospital’s emergency room, I felt I had no reason to complain given the limited resources they have. But a private hospital that charges more should take better care of their patients, especially given the huge difference in nurses to patients ratio. I regretted agreeing to my sister’s suggestion that we transfer our dad there. We all agreed later that we should’ve brought him to the hospital we trusted most. So we counted the days that my dad can finally go home. We had our dad and his companion discharged as soon as we got the doctor’s nod.

This recent experience is one of the reasons why I sorely feel the frustrations many of my countrymen feel surrounding the Php10B pork barrel scam. While major public hospitals make do with limited resources, some of our politicians and unscrupulous individuals get away with pocketing billions worth of taxpayers’ money.

I wonder if those people who plunder and steal the country’s resources would be able to sleep well if they see the plight of patients in public hospitals.  Many indigent patients are stuck waiting in crowded emergency rooms manned by very few medical personnel.

“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally” ~ @davidgaider

I never thought of myself as privileged until that moment when I realized that you don’t have to be rich to be privileged. Sometimes, it’s being clueless about other people’s plight, especially the ones who suffer that gives rise to apathy. With our politicians basking in the privileges accorded by their position and wealth, ill-gotten or otherwise, most of them probably haven’t experienced how it is to live like ordinary citizens do. I wonder when most of them last stepped into the halls of a public hospital to see suffering in one of its many forms.


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