By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
TINOC, IFUGAO — In a far-flung village of this town, a mother cries for help as she is expecting her water bag to break any hour in the evening. Her women neighbors call for the able bodied men to prepare the ayud or the hammock made of blanket fastened to sturdy wood or bamboo. They will transport the mother by way of the hammock to the barangay health station. Women in the village gather at the health station to accompany the mother in labor. Throughout the labor hours, women rotate shifts as they ensure that the mother about to deliver is not left alone. This has been a practice among the Kalanguya in this particular village for quite a long time.
As soon as the patient was brought to the health station, the midwife assisted her. In a few hours towards dusk, her water bag broke. The morning came and she has not given birth yet. Her neighbors started to worry. Afternoon came and still, she has not delivered the baby yet. They began to worry that the baby might suffocate as the water bag has broken hours ago. At night, they again prepared the hammock to transport the patient to the nearest District Hospital. At midnight, men carried the patient up the mountain to where they can hire any transport vehicle to bring the laboring expectant mother to Poblacion, Tinoc.
According to the villagers, this has been the state of health since they were born. They have a health station but it is just a structure. Medicines and essential equipment are either scarce or none. For cases of emergency, they rely on each other to save their patient. One of their remedies is the inayud, a practice that is serves as an ambulance. Always, their waterloo is the travel time. Villagers shared that there had been several times when patients die while they are carried up the main road.
“Matay a nga talaga ti pasyente iti dalan,” (patients would die along the way) a villager lamented.
Adding to their battle with time using the hammock ambulance is hiring a transport vehicle. Once they reach the main road, they have to double-time looking for any transport to the district hospital because most of the time, the municipal ambulance is not available.
As they reach the district hospital, they are not even sure if their patient is in good hands. Testimonies would reveal that most cases aside from upper respiratory tract infection, common colds and diarrhea are referred to a higher facility. After the district hospital applies the necessary first aid (which is not done at all times), the patient is referred to the Ifugao Provincial Hospital. However, the supposedly highest medical facility in the province is now a “hospital no more” as some of the informants put it.
For several years already, the provincial hospital which is located in Lagawe is only operating as an out-patient facility as its license has been cancelled by the Department of Health for some reasons. The medical complex that started to be constructed during the last administration has been halted for many complex reasons. As a result, patients from all over the province which are referred to higher facility swarm the Panopdopan District Hospital in the municipality of Lamut. Patients would always complain of the low quality of health service and of being crowded that even the hallways are occupied.
Because the district hospital cannot already accommodate so many patients, they would usually refer them to the nearest province which is in Nueva Viscaya. Veterans Regional Hospital (VRH) located in Bayombong, Nueva Viscaya is the highest health facility that is nearest to Ifugao. In that hospital, the people of Ifugao usually face another illness which is discrimination. Experiences of those who had been admitted to VRH would tell that if patients are from Ifugao, they would be treated as lesser priority.
Some of the beneficiaries of health service told this writer that aside from patients dying due to the battle against time during the transportation from their village to the nearest District Hospital, the Ifugao patients also die because of the “referral state of health.” The poor Ifugaos are usually the victims of this “referral state of health” because the well-to-do patients can go directly to private hospitals where they are attended immediately.
Today, the Kalanguya people of Tinoc shared that instead of suffering the health referral process in their province, most of them would prefer going straight to Abatan, Buguias, Benguet. The situation they added is worse without their self-help remedies like the inayud. # nordis.net