From time to time articles about Hospitals and medical care in The Philippines have appeared here on LIP which have been very informative. Remembering these articles sure paid off for me on my recent visit.
In February 2012 I was hospitalized at home here in the USA with Pneumonia for 12 days in a local hospital. My nearby hospital is a top rated hospital with all of the latest in technology, services etc. Although I can not knock the care and treatment I received after a few days the place was starting to drive me crazy. It seemed every few minutes one doctor or another or one of the medical staff was coming into the room. A dietitian asking for my choice of 20 different meal selections, people pushing laptops around on mobile carts, and each person carried a hand held scanner device to scan the bar coded wristband ID that was put on me. I had just about had it with Hi Tech overkill ! My insurance company was billed about $80,000 for all of this. I really shouldn’t complain as they did cure the Pneumonia and after a couple of weeks at home, once again everything was normal.
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On my 2012 visit to Iligan City, after the first week I felt as if I were coming down with a cold but after 4 days and no help from my paracetamol based ( imported from the UK ) cold & flu remedy I had brought with me offered no relief. At 8 PM in the evening I said to my Iligan friends I think I better go to the hospital. There are several hospitals and many medical facilities I had known of in Iligan. The one that always attracted my attention was Mindanao Sanitarium Hospital, the only ISO 9001 certified hospital in the city that I knew of. I had always wanted to tour this place and had seen a few glimpses of it on prior visits. Additionally, it always had a highly rated reputation with many that live in Iligan.
For newer readers or those not familiar with how Philippine Hospitals are run, there are many differences from hospitals in the USA. I am glad I knew of these differences (from reading about them here on LiP) far in advance. Some of those differences include, BYOE or, bring your own everything such as personal care items, U-GO for your own prescribed medications, they are not supplied by the hospital, you or someone else is responsible for going out and buying them and paying for them at the time of purchase. The patient is responsible for supplying ” watchers ” , friends, relatives etc. to be in the room with you at all times to observe your condition and to call a nurse if needed. You are responsible to pay your hospital bill before you can be discharged from the hospital and you will not be able to leave the hospital until your bill is paid in full ! ( There may have been some recent changes to this although exceptions may apply ! ).
It was about 8 PM on a weekday evening my friends and I arrived at the emergency entrance to MSH. They must have seen the Kano arriving and as I remember it there was No endless wait in a waiting room filling out page after page of forms etc. As I was led into the ER area it reminded me of scenes from those hospital shows on TV. I was put on a gurney and given an oxygen mask to put on as I was asked a few questions by the doctor on duty. My friends were allowed to be with me at all times during this. I was offered a private room which the doctor referred to as a ” Presidential Suite ” at a cost of 2100 peso ( about $52 USD ) per day. How could I refuse a deal like that I thought and replied that will be just fine. An X-Ray was taken and I was diagnosed with Pneumonia again.
As I was on the gurney being taken to my room, I was all eyes and ears, I always wondered what the inside of this place looked like and now I was able to see it and experience it on a first hand basis. In some ways, the interior decor reminded me of things of the past as they were in the USA. It is very well maintained, visually very clean and in good order. I didn’t see all of those medical staff people pushing laptops around on mobile carts as I had seen at my local hospital here in the USA a few months before. Instead of a dozen PC’s at the floor nurses station there was only one. I was beginning to like this place already!
My private room reminded me of a small hotel room as it was equipped with a motorized hospital bed with simple controls ( not the latest hand held digital full room control that it would take days to figure out what all the commands are ) . Name Brand TV with known cable channels on it, no extra charge. A small refrigerator private CR ( bathroom ) but bring your own toilet tissue. A second hospital bed and a settee for the watchers, 2 tables, a window with blinds that could be opened for fresh air if desired. A commercial type through the wall Air Con that did a beautiful job, quietly keeping the room just the way I like it at about 70 Deg F. I checked the filter and it was clean as was the evaporator coil and the rest of the chassis from what I could see of it when I momentarily removed the front grille to take a look. The CR also had a window that could be opened in addition to a very effective exhaust fan. A hospital bed table and telephone just about completed the room compliment.
A Filipina Doctor was assigned to me who came in shortly after I had arrived at my room. The Doctor explained to me that I had Pneumonia and this is the number 5 killer in The Philippines. As she continued talking I thought to myself, if these people deal with so much of this, they must be experts at treating it ! I was prescribed a bunch of medications, put on an I V , the usual blood pressure and stethoscope checks were made etc. One of my ” watchers ” and a long time Iligan friend is a nursing school graduate and went out to buy the prescribed medications for me on a daily basis. There was the in-house hospital pharmacy, a pharmacy across the street from the hospital and two more about a mile down the highway easily accessible on one jeepney ride. The medications were purchased on a one or two day at a time amount. I was constantly on the I V drip. From having pneumonia earlier in 2012 I remembered many of the procedures I had here in New York.
The nurses and other hospital staff at MSH were all very polite and a pleasure to have short conversations with when they came to my room on a scheduled basis to give me the prescribed medications. Some spent a little extra time in conversation with me and that in itself made me feel better. Defiantly not the rush rush feeling I had when I was in the hospital here in New York. Medication cards were hand written, record keeping info was hand written and I wasn’t being scanned like a grocery item every time hospital staff came into the room like I had been here in the USA. This is how I remembered being in a hospital many years ago here, a lot more of a personal attention and care.
Obviously I knew I was ill and at first not feeling all that great, I began thinking to myself, I always wanted to spend a 3rd week in Iligan instead of the usual 2. My friends are here with me. I always wanted to see the inside of this hospital to see what it was like. Other friends were stopping by to say hello and see how I was doing. Hurricane Sandy was happening back in New York, fortunately I had my internet notebook with me and a Globe tattoo getting full signal. I was able to e mail my travel agent back in New York to change my return flights to one week ahead, all New York airports were closed, and as I was watching the news reports from my hospital bed I thought I am much better off right here in this hospital than if I had taken my originally scheduled flight back to the USA.
Not knowing if I had any food allergies even though I told the hospital none that I know of, not wanting to take any chances, I was put on a hypoallergenic diet for the first couple of days or so. Not being the most appetizing, to me, my friends knew what I like and they started bringing some of my favorite items from Jollibee, Red Ribbon and other eateries to me. One evening as I was kind of half asleep early in the evening, I hear one of my watchers return from getting himself some dinner. I hear the room door open and one of my other friends asks what do you have ? The other friend replies ” Mackies ” . One of the earliest pictures I had seen of Iligan I remembered a place called ” Mackies Fried of Iligan ” , a place among many, that sell rotisserie style cooked chicken. I always wanted to try this place but had not done so yet. When I heard my watcher friend say ” Mackies ” I asked ” is that Mackies Fried of Iligan ” , my friend says Yes. I ask if I can try some and if he could get more of it. I had one small piece then gave my friend some money as asked if he could go back and get a bag full and i said ” make it Mackies all around ” !. This then gave me the thought I am in the hospital but at the same time I am still able to enjoy food from places I have not been to yet, this is no ordinary hospital stay, this is turning more into one big party ! Could it be true that ( in some cases ) Hospitals are MORE FUN in The Philippines ?
One slight downside, there were two civic events I had looked forward to attending during this visit that I thought I would have to miss out on. Culmination day of National Correctional Consciousness Week and the Monday Flag Ceremony at City Hall, both of which I was an invited guest. Special arrangements were made that if I could have approval from my Doctor, I could be temporarily released room the hospital for a few hours to attend these events and also that my I V catheter would have to be flushed every 2 hours while I was out of the hospital by a qualified person. On both of these occasions, BJMP ( city Jail ) officials and jail officers would be present as both of these ceremonies involved them. It just so happens that some of the city Jail officers are also licensed nurses, fully qualified to flush an I V Catheter. As I left the hospital to attend these events I was given an official pass to be presented to the security guards upon leaving the hospital. This is something that exceeded all of my expectations. Do you think anything like this would have happened here in the USA ? I don’t think so. I participated in part of the ceremonies at the jail, did the Iligan March at City Hall with City Employees and others, received an award from Iligan BJMP for my donations to the City Jail, and had my I V Flushed on schedule by a licensed nurse as ordered by the hospital doctor.
After only 5 days in the hospital, I was able to be released with additional medications prescribed and to be taken for a week or two after. As much as I don’t like taking medications or drugs, my nursing school graduate friend kept track of my medications for the duration of my stay in Iligan. I returned home on my revised schedule finding no damage to my house or property from Huricane Sandy and fortunately my electricity was still on. After recuperating from Jet-Lag, I went to my Doctor here and got a vaccination for Pneumonia and also a Flu shot. I have been fine since then.
From reading about health care and Hospitals in The Philippines, I know that care and treatment can vary depending on where in The Philippines you are. I can’t say that any or every health and hospital experience a person could have in The Philippines would have any similarities to mine but for me it was quite an experience and a good one at that. On each visit I always have travelers insurance just in case. This time it paid off. My total cost ? I think it was less than $1000 USD and only 5 days in the hospital instead of 12 . At least this one time, my being hospitalized in The Philippines really was ” MORE FUN ” !
My many thanks to Mindanao Sanitarium Hospital , Iligan City, ( the name has recently been changed ) for the care, treatment and consideration I received there. Also many thanks to my Iliganon friends who served as watchers, and assisted in so many ways while I was ill.
For further information on this hospital, including many pictures here is a link to their recently revamped website.