Hospital chief ready to go to bat for ArroyoBy Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The top official of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) said she was ready to testify in the Sandiganbayan on the condition of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo if asked to do so.
Dr. Nona Legaspi, VMMC hospital director, said Arroyo’s transfer to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) was an urgent medical matter contrary to insinuations by some lawmakers that the now Pampanga representative was simply evading her transfer to a regular jail.
“Yes, I’m willing (to testify). All those are facts and I can show the medical documents,” Legaspi said, adding however that she had not yet been approached by Arroyo’s lawyers about taking the witness stand.
The Sandiganbayan, which is hearing the plunder case against the Pampanga solon, ordered defense lawyers to present their witnesses and evidence in support of Arroyo’s request to be detained at the VMMC for humanitarian and medical reasons.
On Friday, Arroyo was transferred to the ICU after an electrocardiogram showed that she was suffering from coronary ischemia or diminished blood flow to the heart.
Legaspi explained the move, saying they acted with urgency as “heart ailments should not be taken lightly.”
She noted that the former President had been complaining of chest pains since her confinement a week ago.
Arroyo was initially admitted due to dehydration, pain and numbness, followed by findings of hypokalemia or low serum potassium levels in the blood.
As of now, doctors are assuming that the coronary ischemia is caused by a blockage although other tests have to be conducted to verify the exact cause.
Arroyo has been confined in the ICU since Friday afternoon, accompanied by a personal nurse, with policemen stationed outside, Legaspi said.
“We had to act with urgency because we might be overtaken by unforeseen events, and we don’t want that. Heart conditions should not be taken lightly,” she said, adding that they preferred to err on the side of caution.
Legaspi added that they were monitoring the patient’s condition day-to-day to see if Arroyo could attend her court date on Monday.
Arroyo is hooked up to several monitors in the ICU, which has doctors and nurses on duty round the clock.
Legaspi said that if Arroyo were brought to a regular jail, the facility should have the same equipment as the hospital.
“It should be a detention facility that can monitor her health regularly,” the doctor added.
Despite doubts by some legislators about the transfer of Arroyo to the ICU, her supporters believe Arroyo is not faking it and that she really needs serious medical attention.
Holding their rosaries and praying before an image of Our Lady of Manaoag, the group Karapatan GMA has stationed itself in front of VMMC to pray for her recovery.
Apolonia Tolentino, convenor of Karapatan, said they don’t mind even if they only eat biscuits three times a day, as long as they are able to show their support for Arroyo.
“I told madam (Arroyo) the other day that I would rather see her in jail than see her inside a coffin,” said Tolentino, reiterating that Arroyo should be allowed to go abroad for treatment.
Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros, meanwhile, called on the Catholic faithful to pray for Arroyo’s recovery.
“We are a compassionate people. In spite of all the allegations against her, she has served the country in the way she has seen it fit to govern,” Oliveros said.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said Arroyo should be allowed hospital arrest instead of house arrest.”