Hospitalized In The Philippines

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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.

Hospitalized In The Philippines

Hospitalized In The Philippines

Remember, to see a larger view, just click on any images.

My Watchers

Members of my original Iligan Entourage serve as my official ” watchers “. Cable TV in the background showing news of Hurricane Sandy about to arrive in New York ! Glad I was able to watch ” from a distance “!!

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.

IIT Jacket

Prior to my visit I ordered an official MSU-IIT Jacket. It was custom made to Filipino size XXL for me. Archie Netanyahu delivers the jacket to me in the hospital and checks it for a good fit.

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 ! ).

Join Expat Island
Official Visit

Offical Visit from Iligan BJMP and City Hall with Wardress Cas, Estella, and Warden Jalagat to see if I will be able to attend civic events I had been invited to.

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!

Flag Raising

By special arrangement and Doctors permission I was ablt to attend the Monday Morning Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall. Here I am participating in ” Iligan March “, Hospital I D on the left arm, I V Catheter on the right arm. Even though I was hospitalized with Pneumonia, the Fun never stopped!

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.

Iligan City Jail Ceremony

Being hospitalized did not stop my participation in some of the events being held at the ” Award Winning ” Iligan City Jail. Still under the eye of my hospital watchers.

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.

Catheter Flush

Doctors Orders. To be allowed to have a temporary release from the hospital ( at my own risk ) I would have to have my I V Catheter flushed every 2 hours by a qualified nurse. Many of the Jail officers and staff at the Iligan City Jail are multi talented, A BJMP Jail Officer and Licensed Nurse takes care of just what the Doctor ordered.

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 ?

M S H  Iligan City

Partial street view of Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital. The name of which has recently been changed as shown with more info and pics here >> http://www.amciligan.org/ << . I would not hesitate to recomend this hospital to anyone.

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.

M S H  BILL

The Bill ! Medications not included as these must be purchased on a cash and carry basis from local pharmacies per Doctors prescription. All figures shown are in Philippine Peso. Exchange rate at the time of my visit was approx. 40 PHP to 1 USD. A far cry from what it cost me in a USA hospital earlier in the year!

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.

Post Author: BobNY (12 Posts)

Bob in New York is a regular reader and participant on the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob has traveled to the Philippines many times already and primarily visits the Iligan and Cagayan de Oro areas. Bob is a big fan of Jollibee Corporation, and even owns stock in the company!


Comments

  1. DIrk says

    Bob,

    I was hospitalized in Iloilo in July and founded the same experience that you did, except the official pass, which I had no reason to leave, what I loved was how caring the staff was compared to American hospitals. I had to have stitches which was an er visit and had ecoli. At the end of 3 days it was about $470 usd, when I got back I had my Dr review the medical paperwork and he said they did the exact same things he would of, and when he ran the American calculator it would have been around $35000 usd in the local hospital.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Dirk,
      Thanks for your comments. I am glad you had a similar and favorable experience. Knowing in advance from reading about Hospitals in The Philippines certainly made things easier and a lot more comfortable for me. Many of the differences I am sure are what make one of the differences in the cost. Additionally I am under the impression that Philippines hospitals are run the way they were originally intended to be run, by Doctors and Hospital administration, not by insurance companies like they are here. At least that is my own feeling.

      • Jeff Bain says

        Hello All

        Just as a side bar on medical cost, the day before yesterday my lady and I were out at a lunch here in Kuwait. I had an attack… dizzy, sweaty, clammy cold skin etc anyway my lady and others got scared… they called an ambulance. Three guys came to check me, gave my oxygen to breath, and a gurney to lay on. They took me to the ER room at a nice, clean public hospital here. It is named Adan Hospital. Basically, I stayed there for about 5 hours, got an IV of fluids, a shot in my butt LOL, and more oxygen.

        Anyway, after All that, plus some pills,…….. total price to me? KD 2 or peso 300. WOW

        American hospitals Suck….

        Jeff B

  2. Raymundo Munoz Gavina says

    It’s so nice reading LIF. We are sick or so but we have never went to a certified provider, we lived here in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. A Tricare for Life with a Medicare Part A & D, my wife who was told to dis-enroll is on Tricare Standard ? Hmmm any info please. Sholud I apply for a Dual Citizen when I get back to Las Vegas, thank you very much

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Raymundo, afraid I can not answer those questions for you. I am a ” few years ” away from Medicare and I am not at all familiar with Tricare. I am sure there may be other readers here that may be able to give you more of an answer than I can at this time. Thank you for commenting though.

    • Scott Fortune says

      Raymundo,

      I don’t have any information regarding your post, but have some questions for you about Pozorrubio. I am thinking of looking in that area for land or a farm. Dagupan City has a good hospital, I have heard, whcih is a long ride, but it would mean good care for your sick ones.

      Dual citizenship? Are you a Philippines citizen or American citizen living in the Philippines? if you were born in the Philippines and became a U.S. citizen, then you can simply sign a form stating your allegiance to the Philippines and it would make you a dual citizen.

  3. Queenie says

    Hi BobNY,
    Glad to hear that you’re now on the mend, and that you had a successful and comfortable stay at the hosiptal. Quite an experience that you were able to compare the care between the two hospital stays.
    I remember back when I was a US Peace Corps, I was hospitalized twice in two years, once at Cebu City Doctors’ Hospital and also once at Chong Hua Hospital.
    It was stressful being sick of course, but the excellent care that I received at the time, and the sweet help from watchers, friends and well-wishers really made it alot easier. Medications are also explained clearly for anyone having to make pharmacy purchases, so that’s helpful too.
    I remember getting roses there for the first time in the Philippines, and even a nurse dropped off an invitation to her coming wedding! My future husband also presented me with three mangoes that he said symbolized I LOVE YOU.
    On the second hospital stay, after after I was feeling much better, my Peace Corps doctor brought in a case of diamond rings on loan from the jeweler, and asked me to help pick one out for his wife! Only in the Philippines of course:)

    Up to the present, both of these hospitals are board certified and provide excellent care in Cebu City. Family members have had good experiences there too, at a fraction of the cost in the US. Either one would be a good choice in Cebu City if needed.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Queenie, thank you for commenting. It had been decades since I was in a hospital prior to last year. From reading on the internet I was aware that there must be thousands of Philippines nurses here in the USA. When I was in the hospital here in New York, I kept on asking if there were any of them. There was only one which I eventually met. From my experience at MSH in Iligan, I am very impressed that it seems they are being taught what I would call ” the real way ” ( to me ) of doing things such as hand written medication cards and record keeping on hard copy paper rather than just making computer entries. I am sure they are taught that as well but the way I experienced things being done at MSH just seemed a bit more ” real ” to me or, the way I had remembered them from the past. Very comforting to me. Well, I guess you could say another wish came true for me on my 2012 visit to The Philippines. I wanted to meet some of the Philippines Nurses that I had read, heard about and even toured a Medical College in Iligan ( IMCC ). This time I was surrounded by them in a real life situation. I am very impressed !

      In addition to being a Hospital, Mindanao Sanitarium Hospital is also a leading medical college and although I did not see that part of it on my 2012 visit, I was able to experience a bit of the results of that college.

  4. donna west says

    thanks for a very informative and interesting article. health care and hospitalization is something i have been curious about in the Philippines. In my heart, i felt comfort that it would be a good experience if i ever needed it while i am living there. 7 years ago i was hospitalized for two days while i had to have my gall bladder removed. i went into emergency on sunday and had surgery monday morning and was sent home tuesday morning. the whole hospital experience was a nightmare. the last time i was hospitalized was when my youngest son was born in 1974,so i didnt realize how much things have changed and that they werent for the better. well the care i received was much less than acceptable. my room was next to a room with was quarantine and nurses ran back and forth between my room and theres without any precautions. a housekeeper brought me slippers because she was concerned with my bare feet on the floor where the nurses walked. after surgery, i was susposed to get up and walk but i couldnt do it alone as i was hooked up to all the post surgery stuff and i was disorientated. the nurse even told me someone should be walking me but no one came to walk me until way after the night shift came in. by then i was experiencing pain in my lower lung area and by the next morning when they were checking me out to go home i told the nurse the pain was very severe and even the pain medicine was not helping. she ignored me and told me that was normal. after less than 24 hours at home i was experiencing shortness of breathe and i never got relief from the pain. so i went to my family doctor who gave me an xray and an exam and couldnt find what was wrong so called an ambulance to take me back to the hospital. i laid in that emergency room for what seemed forever. i know it had to be for hours and i was there alone so i was really afraid and couldnt ask anyone for help cause there was no one with me. then they did an xray and i waited in the room alone again for a very long time. finally a doctor came in and told me i have double pneumonia and they were going to keep me in the hospital and give me an antibiotic throught IV. those were the worst two days of my life in that hospital. i couldnt rest cause they kept bothering me and always took blood from me in the middle of the night as i had just finally got off to sleep and no one was friendly. never did they come and offer to bring me a soda or anything. i have to ask several times if i needed something. my son came to visit me a couple of times but he couldnt stay long as he had to go back to work. i got pneumonia because they did not bring me a breathing apparatus to use after surgery and they did not get me up to walk soon enough. the antisetic they gave me for the surgery had went to my lungs and made them sticky. after the first treatment of antibiotics the severe pain in my lower right lung went away so i am sure it was an infection. medicaid paid my hospital bill so i do not know how much it was but i am sure far more than it was ever worth. i felt they should have paid me for not giving me the care i should have had. so with that said, a hospital stay at a Philippines hospital could not be anything but a better experience than i received here in springfield missouri.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Donna,
      My impression for many years is that nearly the entire ” Medical Business ” here in the USA is more governed and run by Insurance Companies than by qualified and experienced Doctors and other medical people. For most things considered as ” standard procedures ” a health care provider will only get paid a fixed rate from an insurance company regardless if that procedure takes 1 hour or 3 hours. Things like that strip our individuality away. An insurance company will only pay a hospital for a patient to be there for a certain number of days and no more. To me, it is like cookie cutter or assembly line medical care here in the USA. I have heard of many times we are over tested, over medicated, etc. due to the fact that the medical provider (s) is more interested in protecting themselves from malpractice lawsuits rather than what might be best for each individual patient. It is in my opinion that the Doctors and other medical professionals can be entirely blamed for this. In many cases it is the insurance companies that dictate to the doctors how they ( insurance providers ) want the job done and not how the actual doctor would otherwise perform any certain procedure. It appears to me that Doctors and healt care facilities here in the USA then have to overbill the insurance companies and hope they get half of what they bill for. To compensate for that, doctors have to see more patients per hour. I finally got one Doctor here in the USA to admit to me that if they do not see 4 or 5 patients per hour in a typical doctors office enviornment, they are not making any money. The whole systme here unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. I am sorry you had so many problems that were not a fault of your own.

      Thank you for your comments.

      • donna west says

        thank you bobNY. you are right. here in america healthcare is an industry. a business to make a lot of people rich and it lacks compassion and true concern for its patients. you know a person can live without a gall bladder and they dont mind taking them out at any opportunity. i can hardly wait for my new life in the RP. i am so afraid of living here anymore. i am so glad you had a good experience there in the phils and I am glad they made you all better quickly and i am glad you shared your experience with us.

  5. coi palmieri says

    my american husband got hospitalized for the first time in eight years of his stay here in the Philippines….confined for almost two days due to diarrhea, (without my knowing, he accidentally drank a glass of coco milk which i stored in the refrigerator, thought it was sweet and delicious, lol…he didn’t know too much of it could cause diarrhea..) with all the convenience being treated in a cool private room, we only paid a total of 1,750 pesos, about $42 dollars. being my spouse, he was covered by my philhealth membership and also plus his senior citizenship, 32% discount…

    • Bob New York says

      I am not too familiar with how Philhealth and other insurance companies operate in The Philippines but it certainly sounds like it must be a better system than here. For those that pay cash ( or credit / debit card ) on the spot for medical care I think it saves a lot of time, labor and waiting on the part of the health care provider. Fortunately in The Philippines it looks like these savings are passed on to the person being billed. In some doctor offices that I have been to here in the USA, they have more office people sitting at computers doing billing and record keeping, than they have Doctors working in that same office. This kind of situation escalates the overhead of the medical practice, and of course that cost is eventually passed on to us.

      I’ll have to remember what you mentioned about the coconut milk ! Thanks for the tip and your comment.

  6. says

    LOL, Bob, I had to smile at your mention of “watchers” during your hospital stay at MSH. In the vernacular, the watchers are known as “bantays”. The mention of the word jogged my memory back to my month-long May 2000 trip to the Philippines that featured, among other things, my overnight stay at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital (PRMMH) located in Iba, the provincial capital of the province of Zambales. Officially, I went to the Philippines on an acquisition trip on behalf of my then-employer, the Library of Congress, at the behest of the LOC’s regional director and field office based in Jakarta. Unofficially, I went to the Philippines to visit my mother and to celebrate the barrio fiesta of Salaza, which fell on May 15th. The following night of my arrival, Mom hosted the pre-fiesta Flores de Mayo candle-lit religious procession and a ballroom dance held at the barrio auditorium following the procession. After the last tango was played at 1AM, typhoon “Biring” bore down on Salaza and throughout Luzon. It would linger non-stop for the next 12 days with torrential rain and heavy winds. During the storm’s brief lull, I decided to go to Iba to catch up with my work email at the internet cafe located there. It wasn’t before long, though, when I suddenly felt faint and nauseous in front of the computer. I was also perspiring heavily. I went outside to get a breath of fresh air, but it didn’t do any good, so I asked my cousin/driver if there was a hospital nearby, and he told me there was one around the corner, the PRMMH.

    Coincidentally, Bob, just as you were interested in visiting and learning the operations of the MSH during your previous Philippine visits, I, too, had been wondering for some time what it would be like to be in a Philippine hospital, both as a patient and as a cultural observer. In fact, just before my departure for the Philippines, I had been discussing this very topic with my internet friends from the Philippines. Discussing the PRMMH from my desk in Washington thousands of miles removed from Iba, I never thought that I may someday be part of the hospital’s history. As fate would have it, my being in the vicinity of PRMMH was not good enough. Fate would make sure that I was physically within the confines of PRMMH to contribute to its glorious history. LOL Willing participant or not, it didn’t matter. I was sick, and I needed to see a doctor fast. Leaving the internet cafe in haste, we arrived at the hospital within 5 minutes. In the lobby, which also served as the emergency room, a group of men in civvies (they were medical doctors) met us, and as soon as they saw me, they quickly sprang to their feet. Without so much as asking what I was there for, they laid me down on a rolling bed, hooked up electrodes on my chest, placed a pill under my tongue, and slapped an oxygen mask on my face. They immediately knew what was wrong with me. They worked silently and quickly as if they’ve rehearsed the procedure a thousand times before. I heard no idle conversation whatsoever. The silence was broken only when one of the doctors sent my cousin to the pharmacy across the street to buy medicine they needed to give me right there at the ER, and in response to the very first question I asked since entering the hospital. “Sir, you are having a heart attack!”

    Hours later and once I was deemed stabilized, the doctors decided to keep me overnight for observation. It was 5PM, Saturday, the 13th of May 2000, when I was wheeled into the general ward to spend the night, while typhoon Biring continued to rage outside. The following cultural observations then are a product of my one night stay at PRMMH. As you can see, Bob, my hospital experience closely resembled yours, from the “bantays” to buying your own medicine from the pharmacy across the street and so forth, with the only exception being you were in a private room and I was with the general population.

    Doctors and nurses and other members of the PRMMH professional staff appeared to be competent and knowledgeable in their respective fields of specialization. I found them extremely courteous and polite. They were very attentive and responsive to a patient’s needs just like in the States. However, standard patient care that we take for granted in industrialized countries where many of us live was sorely lacking at PRMMH. This situation while significant is entirely correctable and not necessarily due to the incompetency of the medical/professional staff. It was more, I believe, due to staff shortages and lack of critical modern equipment caused by inadequate funding.

    The ward I was in had two prominent rules: hours of visitation and “Isang pasyente, isang bantay” (One patient, one watcher). It was obvious that the rules were ignored and never enforced.

    The room was auditorium-large, crammed with about 40 beds arranged haphazardly to take advantage of available space. Private rooms with air-conditioning were still under construction on the upper floors, I was told. Glaring fluorescent lamps overhead were too bright for comfort. As it was relatively cool because of the steady rain, the windows were open. Patients and visitors alike can be seen hacking and spitting out of the windows. To my unaccustomed eyes, the ward was chaotic – a beehive of activity of people milling about all night long, performing chores normally associated with nursing. These folks were the “bantays”. They numbered between 3 to 6 family members and friends for each patient in an obvious disregard for the rule that said, “Isang pasyente, isang bantay”. These “bantays” visit with the patients primarily to provide psychological support and nursing assistance. They rotated in shifts, carrying with them their pots and pans, coffee makers, and kalderos of cooked rice. Here you see a “bantay” changing clothes in the middle of the ward, there you see another “bantay” cooking supper, and another rubbing lotion on the back of the patient. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a high school gym and a cafeteria.

    Around midnight, the racket subsided a bit. I looked around to see 3 or 4 people asleep on the same bed with the patient with their street clothes. When the duty nurse came around to dispense medication or to take temperature, she had to wake all 4 sleeping bodies to find out who the patient was.

    I woke up from a semi-stupor around 5AM to see vendors carrying food-laden baskets, weaving their way around the tight spaces between the beds, softly murmuring, “Suman, suman po kayo diyan”, in a duet with the crowing roosters outside, while neatly-uniformed orderly kept busy sweeping the floors with a “walis-tambo”.

    To my surprise, one of the lady food vendors came toward my bed. I soon realized that because we made eye contact, though unintentionally, she thought I wanted to buy. I had suman (rice cake wrapped in palm frond) for breakfast that morning.

    The hospital provided a sheet to cover the bare vinyl-covered mattress, and that’s it. Patients had to bring own kumot (linen), pillows, eating utensils and just everything else they needed for their stay. Hospital gowns, towels, soap, shampoo, and toothpaste were not standard issues. Lavatories did not have toilet papers. If you went to the bathroom and did not bring toilet paper with you, you’re in for one of the greatest cultural shock of your life. There were no photocopiers in the building; there were no telephones, no televisions, and there were no flower or gift shops.

    The constant noise of cars and tricycles backfiring provided an inducement for a long, sleepless night. At each explosion, I looked around the room to find a face that registered annoyance or displeasure, but found none. People accepted it as a way of life.

    I bade farewell to PRMMH at 7:30AM that still-rainy Sunday morning, my mind filled with fond memories of my overnight stay at the hospital. The good news was, I was well enough to be discharged after an overnight stay. I also had a competent doctor who gave me the readouts for my EKG tests to show my doctor when I returned to the States. He was also willing to provide me with a photocopy of the diagnosis that I asked for, but there wasn’t a photocopier in the entire building. My only regret was being discharged too soon to have experienced a larger slice of Filipiniana at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital. Under a torrential downpour, I hopped onto a tricycle for the 15 minute trip home to Salaza.

    Cost of overnight stay at the hospital: 0
    Doctors’ fees: 0
    Donations, however, were accepted, and I donated generously.

    When typhoon Biring finally blew off to sea in that May of 2000, Mom and I made the trip to Manila to accomplish my primary mission for travelling to the Philippines:

    http://www.angelfire.com/on4/zambalesforum/locmanila.htm

    • Bob New York says

      Hi John, and thank you so much for sharing your experience here. I was going to mention in the comments here, hospitals and health care in The Philippines can vary greatly between different facilities and the geographical region, town or city you are in. Each individuals experience may vary. I consider myself fortunate to have had the experience I did.

      As I remember, when I was in the ER at MSH, I was informed that there was no ward space available at this time but we can offer you a private room ” Presidential Suite ” for the cost of 2100 peso per day. My mental reference point for 1000 peso is $25 USD for making quick estimate calculations. In less than a second after I heard that quotation it was like a big flashing neon sign in my brain was flashing the word ” Bargain ” to me and without hesitation I replied ” no problem, I’ll take it ” . Maybe they had ward space available, maybe not. It could be that they were looking out more for what they felt would make me most comfortable.

      I spent 2 years learning about Iligan City via internet prior to my first visit, and that included a bit about what hospitals and medical care was available. I had seen pics of MSH and a youtube video that was taken in one of the private rooms, including the thru the wall air conditioner. I was aware some of the differences in the way hospitals are run from articles here on ” LIP ” and had read some of the experiences of others in various parts of The Philippines.

      On my very first visit to Iligan City, coming from the direction of Cagayan De Oro, MSH is not far from after entering the city limits on the National Highway. My first glimpse of it, it looked huge compared to its surroundings and I did get to see just a little bit of it on that first visit.

      On my visit of 2012 when I got to the point where I knew I needed professional medical attention, all I had to say to my friends is we better go to MSH, but they already had that in mind too.

      My advice to anyone going to The Philippines, if you know where you are going do the research, do some web searching, check out the various articles on ” LIP ” so if certain unplanned things do happen you will have some idea of what to do or where to go.

      Thanks again John for your very informative comments of your experience.

    • Gary Suzuki says

      President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital (PRMMH) is a government run (public) hospital. You want to avoid these types of hospitals if at all possible. They are underfunded.

      Here’s a link to hospitals in the Phl.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_hospitals_in_the_Philippines#Zambales

      If you click on the link to the town/city where a hospital is located there should be a description of the medical facilities in that town/city. It should tell you which hospitals are public and which hospitals are private. Go to a private hospital.

      • says

        “Go to a private hospital.”

        Good idea, Gary, I’ll keep that in mind the next time I get sick when I’m in the Philippines. Remember, though, that in the condition that I was in at the time, when time was of essence and I was feeling faint, nauseous, and perspiring heavily (telltale signs of a heart attack), choosing a hospital was not an option. The PRMMH was within 5 minutes of the internet cafe I was at, and so that’s where my cousin/driver took me. We didn’t even know if there was a private hospital in Iba at the time (year 2000). What I found really interesting was what my stateside doctors revealed to me upon my return to the States. Although the Filipino doctors who treated me in the emergency room at PRMMH that day told me I was having a heart attack, the head of cardiology department at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. said I NEVER had a heart attack. He found no scar or sign of damage to my heart. I do recall that while in the emergency room at PRMMH while being treated by Filipino doctors, I started feeling better right away after I had vomited and had gone to the bathroom with diarrhea. In hindsight, what I had was probably a case of my still unaccustomed stomach disagreeing with the first Filipino-cooked food I had the previous evening, barely a couple of days of arriving in the Philippines. The dinner was delicious though. It was “dinengdeng” cooked with huge prawns, something I never had in the States.

  7. PapaDuck says

    John, Bob
    Really enjoyed hearing your experiences in the hospital there. Healthcare was one of things i was worried about when living there. After hearing Bobs and Yours experiences there, it kind of put me more at ease about it. I will be on Anne’s Sun Life of Canada insurance, along with Philhealth, should pretty much cover most of the bills if need be. Here we just take healthcare for granted. There most people are fortunate if they can afford healthcare. Alot of the difference i can see which is refreshing is the Doctors there take the time to talk to you and not rush you through your appointment and there decisions are not controlled by the insurance companies. Take care and have a nice day

    • Bob New York says

      Thanks for your comment PapaDuck. I agree with you 100% about the rush rush treatment many of us here in the USA must feel as compared to years ago. The doctor I had for many years would spend about an hour or a bit more for an annual complete physical, had his own on premesis lab etc. After he retired and his practice was taken over by a medical group, now for an annual physical I sent around to 5 different doctors, all specialists so I have to pay 5 co-pays etc. I am really considering having an annual physical in The Philippines while I am there on vacation, especially now that I have experienced a place I feel is well qualified, equipped and that I am Not being treated as ” just another co-pay ” .

  8. John D says

    BobNY,
    Went to an emergency room here in the states with kidney stones(6th time), so i knew what was wrong before even getting there. Saw the ER doctor who was barely out of med school, twice for a total of about 5 minutes, she prescribed one(1) shot of morhine for pain and a prescription for demerol for pain until I passed the stone. Total time in the ER was approximately one(1) hour. Hospital bill for one(1) frigging hour was $2,989.00 dollars and the doctor bill was $898.00. Thank goodness for health insurance here.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi John D,

      More than likely those are the ” inflated, bill to insurance company prices “. It would not surprise me if the hospital and the Doctor get half or less than that when they are finally paid by the insurance co. That is what I see as one of the problems in the health care ” industry ” here in the USA. Even the cost of ” Medical Billing ” and the number of people having to be employed in it have created overseas ” Medical Billing ” companies to be established to cut some of the cost. Medical Billing is being taught in some colleges and universities in The Philippines, similar in the way call centers have been established in other countries for USA companies.

      I really feel sorry for people here in the USA that do not have any insurance as they get hit with the overinflated ” bill to insurance company ” cost when they really should be given some kind of discount for cash. In the opening paragraph of this article I stated that my hospital bill in the USA when I had pneumonia was $80,000 USD, they were paid less than half of that by my insurance co and I had about a $1000 USD co-pay.

      Thankyou for your comment John.

  9. Jon B says

    My wife had emergency surgery done in Davao Doctors back in 2002 and we did not have to bring our own medicines, etc. All the orders for post-op medications were filled by the hospital’s pharmacy. We just got the bill at the end of her stay. Philhealth paid for a portion of her PhP 50k bill. i just don’t remember exactly how much they covered but it surely helped.

    • Bob New York says

      Thanks for your informative comment Jon B,

      From the many hours of reading about Hospital and Health care in The Philippines, there are differences from one health care facility to the other. Some hospitals, particularly in the larger cities may have more similarities to USA hospitals than others. For Philhealth subscribers things could also vary compared to an individual who has no health insurance in The Philippines. I am a visitor / tourist in The Philippines so I do not qualify for Philhealth and most likely any other health policy there. I don’t think I would qualify for Philhealth there even if I lived there with proper resident visa credentials as I believe Philhealth is only for Filipino Citizens, their spouse and immediate family, depending on what kind of policy they have. Anything I have read or heard of about Philhealth Insurance, it seems like a very good policy to have, and at a comparatively very reasonable cost.

        • Bob New York says

          Thanks for that info Corjo. I have heard of that insurance before, I will take another look at it. When I travel and visit Iligan, I always purchase travelers insurance so I eventually will get reimbursement. For the actual time I am in The Philippines such as in this event of being hospitalized I have to make sure I can pay my way at the time something like this happens. Thanks for your comment.

        • Gary Suzuki says

          Health insurance in the Phl.

          1) Once you are past a certain age, usually 65, there is no health insurance policy in the Phl that will guarantee renewal of your policy. If you get too sick they can refuse to renew your policy.

          2) All health insurance policies in the Phl allow them to raise your premiums independent of what others have to pay. Some health insurance companies may guarantee your premiums for a few years but not long term. If you get sick and put in too many claims they can raise your premiums.

          If you want guaranteed renewability and premiums based on your age only and not how many claims you put in, you have to get an insurance policy from outside the Phl that covers you in the Phl. These policies are very, very expensive, however.

      • Jon B says

        Hi Bob,

        Yes, at that time in 2002 we were based in Davao and we paid into PhilHealth. We’re now back in the States.

        There is a Bob’s Diner in Brewster, NY. Are you that Bob? :-)

        • Bob New York says

          Hi John B and thanks for your comment. Yes there is a Bobs Diner but I am not the same Bob. I think if I owned or operated any kind of diner or restaurant I would consume too much of the food to make it profitable LOL . My visits to Iligan City and Cagayan De Oro have introduced me to many kinds of food and food preparation I have never experienced before. This is a contributing factor in my desire for visiting again.

      • Gary Suzuki says

        http://www.philhealth.gov.ph/members/individually_paying/faqs.html

        5. Can a foreign national enroll as an Individually Paying Member?
        YES, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7875, as amended by RA 9241, provides for the inclusion to the National Health Insurance Program the citizens of other countries residing and/or working in the Philippines. If the foreign national is employed, he/she shall be registered under the Employed Sector Program. Meanwhile, if he/she is self-employed or merely residing in the country, he/she may enroll as an Individually Paying Member. He/she only needs to accomplish and submit to any PhilHealth office, the PhilHealth Member Registration Form (PMRF) and a photocopy of his/her Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) issued by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to prove his/her residency in the country.

        It’s for foreigners with resident visas. Not tourists with ACR cards. (I asked at the PhilHealth office.)

  10. Venus says

    Hi Bob..this is very true..so far there’s no laws yet that will allow friends of policy holders to be carried out in the Philhealth benefits..wish we can have special cases like this…il scribble more thoughts soon..il get back to this..

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Venus, thanks for your comment. I think if Philhealth was available to non residents or non Filipinos there would be 747′s loaded with people from other parts of the world coming to many of the hospitals there to take advantage of the comparitively lower costs and wonderful care many of them have the ability to offer. That could make things difficult for those that live there. I am happy that MSH was available to me when I needed medical help on my vacation.

  11. Glenn Iglupas says

    You’ve done so much for Iligan City and to all my fellow Iliganons. You’re truly a godsend. Thank you so much, Bob! And as always, take care! I don’t want to see you hospitalized again. :)

    Looking forward to me you again soon.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Glenn, thanks for your comment and good wishes. I have now had my tour and experience of MSH, a place I have wanted to have a good look at since my first visit to Iligan so I will try not to have to be admitted as a patient on future visits. For me, it is so exciting to come there for a visit I think I just got myself worn out from the anticipation, the long flight and finally the excitement being there in Iligan again and didn’t get enough sleep or rest making me more suceptable to catching something. Even though I had to be hospitalized and at first thought my vacation was going to be wrecked, the fun never stopped ! After all, for me, it’s More Fun in Iligan City !

  12. Glenn Iglupas says

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    You’ve done so much for Iligan City and to all my fellow Iliganons. You’re truly a godsend. Thank you so much, Bob! And as always, take care! I don’t want to see you hospitalized again.

    Looking forward to meet with you again soon.

  13. Scott Fortune says

    First, glad you are feeling better Bob! I hate the hospitals, as I have spent a LOT of time in them! Kidney stones are my issue. And they are NOT any fun. :(

    Second, glad your stay in the hospital in the Philippines turned out to be ok for you. I’ve heard about checkers and runners and all that stuff, but have also heard that in some of the newer hopistals in the bigger cities, they have staff that care for all your needs now. Although, I think I would like people helping me, especially family or friends that I can trust. :)

    Travel insurance? I didn’t know that existed. I guess I’ll have to check into it. Did they cover all your medical bills then when you returned?

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Scott, thanks for your comment.
      I have read of the experiences of others in Philippine Hospitals and have also read that it can vary from place to place, one item being the more out in the provinces one is the less medical assistance may be available. Most of the things I had learned beforehand about hospitalization in the Philippines , applied in my experience here so most of it came as no surprise to me.

      I have previously read that you are not allowed to leave the hospital until your bill is paid in full and you are kept in the hospital until it is, along with additional charges for the extended stay ! I had also read of one individual who did not have money with him but had to go to an ATM. That hospital sent security guards with the individual to make sure he did go to an atm and return to the hospital with the cash.

      In recent months I believe I read somewhere that the Philippine Govt. has now passed a law or resolution that hospitals can no longer hold patients hostage until their bill is paid in full, the only exception to that is for patients that have a private room. If I am in error on this maybe someone can post with more accuracy.

      I have always purchased travel insurance on my visits to The Philippines and also on any other foreign travel I have done in the past. It can cover a multitude of things such as cancelled flights, loss of luggage and other things related to traveling. I buy this from my travel agent, cost me about $80. The insurance carrier I use is known as ” Travel Guard ” .

      I would imagine many people these days buy travel tickets online. I still prefer to use an experienced travel agent. Many times they can even find a better deal that can be found on many airline booking sites. More significant to me however is suppose something goes wrong. As I mentioned in this article, for example, when I knew I would not be able to return back to the USA on my originally scheduled flights due to being in the hospital, as well as all New York Airports being closed due to Hurricane Sandy, one simple e mail to my travel agent back here in New York telling him to book everything one week later than the original plans, was all it took. If I had to deal with individual airline websites or make phone calls answering who knows how many prompts before speaking to a real person it could have been a big headache for me. In a matter of only a few hours, my travel agent e mailed me a complete revised itineary. I was lucky there was No Charge by the airlines for the booking change ! My revised return bookings worked perfectly, no problems, no confusion, no delays.

  14. says

    Being a Canadian with access to universal health care, I’m quite shocked at the cost of falling ill in the U.S. I just cannot imagine receiving a bill for care!

    • Bob New York says

      Hi Maria, thanks for your comment. I could go on and on about it but briefly, my opinion is that ” the system ” is based on a time when a majority of people here in the USA received health insurance at little or no charge from their employer as a benefit of employment. This no longer applies as it did years ago as now the employee is responsible for at least partial payment of their employer arranged for, health insurance. A couple of rough figures I know of is a health insurance policy ( depending on the exact policy and insurance company ) is about $8000 USD per year for an individual and about $14,000 USD per year for a family policy. Once again these are rough figures.

      Doctors purchase ” Malpractice Insurance ” to protect themselves from being sued by patients where something goes wrong, or the patient is misdiagnosed, or there are mistakes in treatment etc. The doctor I had for many years before he retired once told me that he paid 1 Million USD per year for his Malpractice Insurance !

      Insurance companies pay much less than the bills they get from Doctors or health care facilities so the Doctors and health care facilities ( this is my opinion ) raise the costs in hopes that they will get at least half of what they bill insurance companies for. Sometimes they have to wait for months before they are actually paid by insurance companies. With the cost of doing business it would not surprise me if there are more Doctors getting out of medical care practice than those going into it.

      Unfortunately for those that do not have any kind of medical insurance, they get charged the inflated prices that otherwise would be billed to an insurance company.

      A doctors office billing to the various insurance companies has become so complex that a doctors office or health care facility has had to hire additional employees just to handle the complex billing systems. Now there are even outsource companies in foreign countries that offer ” Medical Billing ” at most likely less cost for a doctors office than to hire additional employees. College courses are available in The Philippines that now teach ” Medical Billing ” .

      This is an abbreviation of my reasoning for why medical care is so costly here in the USA. Gary Suzuki has posted a link below which will give you the long version. Very informative reading.

  15. dine says

    I am a registered nurse in one of the hospitals in USA. I have seen the trend of practice in nursing for the past 30 years deteriorating. The American public demands excellent customer service with regards to their medical care and expects the best. When they come to the hospital whether they are indigents or not they want to be waited hand and foot. I can understand when they come for a legitimate reason but for most I handled they come because they want to rest, they want to get attention from the families, they want pain killers….etc…These practices are very unfair to people who really need of emergent and legit care. I am speaking in behalf of other nurses, Filipinos and Americans. We have compassion, but the American public makes it very difficult to do our jobs.The administration has given us a lot of other work aside from taking care of our patients to protect us from any possible legal matters down the road. Abundant paper work is a part of our job. Yes!!!!! we always have meetings to improve customer satisfaction, but how in the world we can implement all of these demands? Majority of the time we work like dogs…..when we hit the floor we basically have to switch our brains …we become mothers, we become peacekeepers between families, doctors and patients, psychologist to those who are mentally ill and drug seekers, dietitians, wrestlers to those demented, janitors…….ohhhh !!!!!!!!a lot more….can’t enumerate anymore. Nursing is a beautiful profession but very very hard…especially taking care of some spoiled rotten customers compounded with demanding administrators who only want money and productivity….Unfortunately there are not not too many young people going into the profession. Can’t blame them if they have brains.We are aware that we are underpaid and overworked but we are not doing anything about it. Most of us after ten years of practice hate our job. We either go into depression or KOKO in the head or switch to other profession to maintain our sanity. We have seen lots of abuses in our system which makes all of us worry where our health care are going. I really hope that the American public will take responsibility of their action. Utilization of the system because it is for free eventually has it’s bad complications. I love caring for those who really deserves it but really hate it when they don’t and just trying to milk the system. Sorry if I am whimpering…..I am human and I have to say how I really feel.

    • Bob New York says

      Hi DIne, thank you for your very informative comments and viewpoint. One of my relatives is a nurse in a USA hospital so I know all too well what you are talking about. The nurses I had in the USA hospital were very good to me and I know at times when I felt I was getting what I would call, over – attention, nurses, doctors or other staff coming in at such frequent intervals they were doing there job, as ordered. I also felt that so much over attention is the fact that in just about any medical situation here in the USA, the individuals and the facility has to more than just cover their you know what just in case something goes wrong and a malpractice suit develops. It is unfortunate that so many fake lawsuits go on here in the USA, it makes it so much more difficult and costly for the rest of us.

      Up until last year ( 2012 ) it had been decades since I was hospitalized as an inpatient for anything and the only thing I remembered about being in the hospital was from decades ago. You can possibly realize my reaction to being hospitalized here in the USA last year. Being hospitalized in The Philippines late in the same year, at least in the place where I was ( MSH, Iligan City ) there were many things there that brought back memories of how it used to be here. Yes, of course they have todays medical techniques, medications, equipment etc. to handle my situation but it all just seemed so much more relaxed and less stressful to me. Dealing with one doctor instead of half a dozen which I could not even remember most of their names and I could go on and on. I wish you could have a first hand experience in a place like this from your point of view. In some ways you could think the calendar did go back many years but in a good way. Many thanks once again for your viewpoint and comments.

  16. Annie Angeles says

    Hi Bob,

    Just want to say that I’m glad to have found this website and to have read your article about being hospitalized here in the Philippines. I have worked abroad, (Shanghai in particular), and I have many expat friends. Some of them are planning to move here in the Philippines and one of the things they wonder about in the Philippines is the hospitalization, e.g. facilities, quality of services in Philippine’ hospital, etc. Your article and the other posts of your readers will surely help answer my friends’ questions.

    Personally, I’m glad to know that even PhilHealth services is available for expats who we know are not “rich” as what other Filipinos thought of all foreigners. I am aware that some foreigners are living on their pension of about $2000 a month, which cannot be enough if living in a city like Manila or if married to a Filipina with extended family to support to. So, being a Phil-Health member will surely help at times of need.

    Reading articles like yours, makes me feel happy that there’s a place like ours, Philippines, that can be a second home for people who are tired living living in their own countries, or to those who wants to have a new life.

    Again thanks for posting your hospital experience. Indeed, it is very helpful. Would surely be giving my friends the link to this article.

    • Bob New York says

      Thanks for your comment Annie Angeles. Hospitalization and health care in The Philippines is something I had wondered about long before my first vacation visit there. I did a lot of online research about Iligan City as that was the place I wanted to visit. As I have mentioned, from what I have read about and learned on the internet, medical care in The Philippines may differ in different cities and localities. There is a multitude of info about The Philippines on the internet so preliminary info on medical care for most areas should be easy to find. Having to be in a hospital while on vacation is usually not fun. In this particular situation, for me, in many ways it was kind of a worthwhile experience as now I know from first hand experience what kind of medical care is available should I ever need it again.

  17. rachel dumapig jablan says

    hi bob,
    I’m so glad you have a good experience being a patient at Mindanao Sanitarium and Hospital.I worked there from 1985 to 1994 and was in-charged of training post graduate nurses which most of them are already here in the US.We had practices like serenading patients during friday evening,don’t know if they still practice it today.

  18. Bob New York says

    Hi Rachel thanks for your comment. I did not see or hear any serenaders during my stay at MSH. Ocasionally I would ask nurses that came to my room if any of them were students from MSH Medical College and they said no. Many of them were graduates though. I commented to them that I was not questioning their capability by asking if any of them were students but told them I always like to encourage student nurses. A couple of years ago I toured IMCC in Iligan and was quite impressed. Maybe on a future visit I will see if I can tour MSH College. Best of luck to you and other OFW Nurses here in the USA.

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