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‘Hospitel’ gives hope to heart patients

July 18, 2007 06:21:00
Anselmo Roque
Northern Luzon Bureau

CABANATUAN CITY – From the looks of its lobby, the five-story building on the campus of the Wesleyan University Philippines in Cabanatuan City could be mistaken for a hotel.

Actually, it is a specialty hospital—the first facility in Northern Luzon to serve heart patients.

Doctors running the Wesleyan University Philippines Cardiovascular and Medical Center (WUPCMC) want to treat the facility as a “hospitel,” or a hospital with a hotel ambience and service, to lessen the stress suffered by their patients.

More than this, though, the “hospitel” seeks to provide hope to heart patients, including those who need immediate surgery, in the provinces.

“This hospital is mostly for handling cardiovascular cases. We have the same skills, equipment and facilities as [those provided] at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC). It is like being attended to by the PHC in a different location,” said Dr. Santos Jose Abad, WUPCMC medical director.

The WUPCMC has made special arrangements with the PHC for the latter’s top heart doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses to be made available to the hospital on certain days, Abad said. Complementing them are doctors and specialists practising in Nueva Ecija.

Abad is also the chief of critical care medicine division of the PHC, the country’s top facility servicing heart patients. The WUPCMC’s chief of surgery, Dr. Florante Lomibao, is also the chief of surgeons at the PHC.

First patient
Also called the “Heart Center of the North,” the WUPCMC charges lower fees compared to the PHC and other hospitals in Metro Manila, according to Abad.

“There is also what we call ‘C.H.’ in the practice of medicine, which means ’charge to heaven,’” Abad said, referring to cases when patients could not afford to settle all their fees.

“We screen patients coming to us and help them find a way to cope with the expenses for correcting their heart problem,” he said.

As if to test the hospital’s mission, the first patient who sought treatment was a tricycle driver, Leopoldo Parica, 38.

Suffering from a rheumatic heart disease since he was 18, PHC doctors told Parica that his heart condition had worsened and that he needed to be operated on immediately.

His hope, however, was dashed when told that more than 800 patients were waiting for a free operation and that he would need at least P600,000 for the procedure and incidental expenses.

Resigned to his fate, he returned home to Nueva Ecija. “I left everything to the will of God,” Parica said, adding that he had prepared himself to die.

But then he learned about the “Heart Center of the North.”

WUPCMC doctors told his family that the operation would cost him P375,000, Parica said. “We asked for a discount. They reduced the quoted price by more than P100,000,” he said.

Parica said his parents sold the family’s small parcel of agricultural land to pay part of the expense. He still owes the hospital a big amount but he has promised to pay the balance.

“What happened to me is like a miracle. Here I am now … alive and healthy,” he said.

Abad said one of Parica’s valves was replaced with a metallic prosthetic valve during the open-heart surgery conducted by Lomibao and his team on May 18.

Three patients from Pampanga, Cagayan and Nueva Ecija underwent operations at the WUPCMC last month. One had an aortic valve replacement, the other a double bypass graft, and the third, a quadruple bypass graft operation.

Abad said two children, aged 4 and 9, who both had congenital heart disease, would undergo surgery soon.

Base hospital

Lawyer Guillermo Maglaya, WUPCMC president, said putting up a hospital owned and operated by the university preempted a reported plan of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to oblige schools offering nursing courses to have their “base hospital.”

“Instead of setting up a general hospital, we decided to put up a hospital that will specialize in the treatment of the top killer in the world, which is heart disease,” Maglaya said.

The building, equipment and facilities, including a sewerage treatment plant, and other features were put up at a cost of P200 million from the savings of the 61-year-old institution.

In the pipeline is the construction of another building to complete a 200-bed capacity hospital with eye and cancer centers and other areas of specialization, Maglaya said.

The WUPCMC is the only hospital in Luzon, outside of Metro Manila, which specializes in treating heart diseases. Aside from the PHC, six other hospitals in Metro Manila handle heart patients, while the Visayas has three hospitals and Mindanao, one.

“We have the latest models of the diagnostic apparatuses and facilities that can help us reach the final decision whether a heart patient will be operated on or not,” Abad said.

These are the CT-scan, angiogram and the cardiac catheterization laboratory. These are in addition to the other laboratory and equipment for diagnostic examination and therapeutic treatment, he said.

Abad said the WUPCMC was set up through the learning core in the operation of the PHC. It can be considered a product of the experiences the doctors acquired at the PHC in the last 20 years, he said.

He said he would seek the help of university officials of the WUPCMC and concerned citizens of Central and Northern Luzon to put up a foundation that would help subsidize the treatment of poor patients.

An existing heart foundation based in Metro Manila can provide assistance of up to P90,000 per poor patient, he said.

He said he would also push the establishment of a halfway house for relatives of patients.

“We are a clannish people who show sympathy and love to a sick relative by staying near him or her. But they could not be accommodated inside the room of the patient,” he said.

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