VMMC chief: Gloria Arroyo health is worse nowBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The health of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appears to have worsened since she was discharged from Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in July after an eight-month hospital arrest.
The Pampanga representative, who still goes to VMMC three times a week for regular checkups, is badly dehydrated and weak.
“I think her health is worse now,” said Dr. Nona Legaspi, the VMMC director.
The former President has lost weight since leaving VMMC on July 25 after being allowed to post bail for the electoral sabotage case for which she was detained.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Arroyo should remain confined in a hospital despite a new arrest order against her.
“I think that’s exactly where she should be kept because she has really become quite frail, according to the reports,” he said.
“I myself would not want her anywhere else except in the Veterans (Memorial Medical Center) where medical assistance is readily available,” added Belmonte, a former political ally of Arroyo.
Belmonte said he “sympathized” with Arroyo. “I sympathize with her but I also believe that the processes of justice and the courts should go on,” he said.
Belmonte commended the way the warrant was served on Arroyo.
“There is no intention to make a spectacle out of it or to embarrass her in any way,” he said.
Legaspi theorized that Arroyo may have developed a phobia against eating because of the choking episodes she has experienced due to her lingering cervical spine problem.
Though Arroyo is on a solid diet “as tolerated,” she seemed to be eating less, the doctor said.
“I think she is also afraid of drinking water for fear of choking,” Legaspi said. Doctors have constantly advised Arroyo to keep herself well hydrated.
According to Legaspi, Arroyo had another choking incident last Wednesday. She was admitted to VMMC the next day. She was at the hospital when police came to arrest her on orders of the Sandiganbayan where she is facing plunder charges for the alleged misuse of P325 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
In a medical bulletin issued Friday, VMMC said the patient initially complained of “generalized body weakness, persistent pain over the nuchal and left shoulder with numbness of both hands and frequent episodes of choking.”
According to the doctors who examined Arroyo, the former President was suffering from “dehydration due to poor oral intake.”
This was outside of her medical condition of cervical spondylosis, Legaspi said.
“She is being managed medically with intravenous hydration and pain reliever with continuation of physical therapy as tolerated,” the medical bulletin read.
Asked how long Arroyo would be confined at VMMC, Legaspi said the evaluation of the patient was on a day-to-day basis.
She said the former President was “not yet medically dischargeable.”
“We cannot predict when she will be discharged,” Legaspi said.
Arroyo has an IV drip attached to her, “she cannot go around with that,” she said.
The doctor described Arroyo’s medical condition as “nothing acute that will warrant an emergency procedure.”
Her complaints may be addressed through therapy and will be observed for the next 24 to 36 hours, she said.
Arroyo still uses a neck brace when walking around but can take it off inside the hospital’s presidential suite as “her mobility is limited there,” Legaspi said.
Dr. Martha Nocum, the admitting physician, said Arroyo has undergone an X-ray of the neck. She is also set to undergo blood extraction and an electromyelogram to determine the cause of the numbing of her hands, among other tests.
Asked if Arroyo, who has filed the necessary papers for her reelection bid in Pampanga’s second district, could withstand the rigors of a campaign with her present state of health, Nocum said: “She will need the help of people to campaign for her. Right now, she can’t.”
Arroyo is suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disease of the bones and cartilage of the neck. She had three surgeries performed by Filipino surgeons at St. Luke’s Medical Center in 2011.
Following a recent hospitalization after Arroyo choked on a piece of melon, Arroyo’s cardiologist said that the titanium brace that had been implanted in Arroyo’s neck had shifted, blocking her air and food pathways, a condition that he said was life-threatening.
The cardiologist said Arroyo’s condition necessitated a fourth operation that could be handled by a team of experts not available in the Philippines.
Legaspi said the hospital has not received any order from the Sandiganbayan.
“We did receive a verbal communication from the police that she (Arroyo) will be staying here for a while,” she said, adding that the hospital’s presidential suite is always kept clean and well-maintained.
The police will be observing the same security arrangements for the hospital arrest of Arroyo, according to Chief Supt. Mario de la Vega, director of the Quezon City police district.
He said a contingent composed of members of the QCPD, the Police Security Protection Group, the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the National Capital Region Police Office and the Special Action Force will be securing the sprawling VMMC compound.
“It will be the same procedure, the same arrangement as before,” De la Vega said yesterday, referring to Arroyo’s eight-month hospital arrest for the electoral sabotage charges.
This arrangement includes “appropriate close-in security” for the former President, he said.
Forty policemen from the QCPD were tasked to guard the VMMC perimeter, while 30 policemen from the RPSB of NCRPO were there on Thursday as backup.
What is new in the security arrangements was the SAF contingent of 30 policemen backing up the QCPD, De la Vega said.
“They are positioned there in case there is a threat or if anyone causes trouble,” he said. With a report from Christian Esguerra