Helping Tapaz District Hospital in the Philippines
"It's the manpower that Project HOPE is providing that we really need," she says. Project HOPE has been assessing the needs of the hospital and is beginning to work with the staff to relieve the pressure.
“Lord, if you want to take me, I am ready,” social worker Melicar Flores recalled praying during Typhoon Haiyan as she tried to protect patients at Tapaz District Hospital– in the direct path of the super storm. As the corrugated metal roof was torn away from the aging cinderblock building piece by piece, terrified hospital staff spent the day transferring patients from room to room hoping their luck would not run out before the cyclone passed.
Before the wind died down, the twenty-odd patients and five staff found themselves crowded together into the only place in the hospital with an intact roof: a narrow conference room lined with rattling windows.
“Most people thought it was the end of the world,” said hospital chief Dr. Jean Aposaga Gloria, whose own home became an evacuation center. “We had about 200 people inside, standing room only.”
Both buildings and all of those inside survived, but the structures of the buildings took a beating, as did the nerves of the occupants. Of the twenty patients at the hospital, three were expectant mothers and all delivered the next morning.
A large mango tree fell directly across the main entrance to the hospital, blocking access. Gloria recalls her conversation with the only man she knew who had an available chain saw. She had to promise him extra days pay so that he would give up the salvage work he was doing on his own home in order to clear a path to the hospital door.
“We prepared as well as we could for the storm. The department of public works helped us secure the windows, we tied lose things down. But we didn’t think that we’d have to cut down the trees nearest to the hospital.”
“They said it would be the strongest typhoon in the world. But we didn’t appreciate what that meant.”
Gloria describes victims with lacerations from glass and trees, deaths by electrocution from fallen wires, and very little outside help.
Even before the tragedy, things were tenuous. “It’s an old facility. Often the repairs are financed by our staff. Nurses are often contributing to things, like repairing tiles. These same nurses are paid only 145 pesos a day (about $3.50),” says Gloria.
The facility has 25 beds, but frequently has 40 – 50 in-patients– and most cannot pay. “This hospital is a hospital that survives on donations.”
The hospital’s emergency request for 200,000 pesos ($4,650) for roof repairs from the government has been approved, but the governor’s office has said that its emergency funds have been depleted to the point that it is currently not able to fulfill the request.
“It’s the manpower that Project HOPE is providing that we really need,” she says. Project HOPE has been assessing the needs of the hospital and is beginning to work with the staff to relieve the pressure.
“Our employees are severely overworked and stressed out,” says Gloria, describing how those on duty the day of the typhoon had to remain working for three days because the next day’s staff couldn’t make it through the debris-filled roads and paths to work. “Ten of our employees had completely destroyed homes. Everyone had some damage. All of them are victims yet still have to perform their duties and somehow cope.”
She ticks off the priority list for the near future: antibiotics and other emergency medicines, counseling and public education on topics like hygiene and infection control, windows, paint…
Gloria stops, but she is smiling. “We are so grateful that you are here.”