DAET, Camarines Norte—Three days before Christmas, Myra Lazado, 32, and her sickly daughter boarded a boat from Banocboc village in the Calaguas Group of Islands in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, to roam the streets of this capital town to ask for Christmas presents from anyone who could be generous enough.
Sensing opportunity in the crowd, Lazado went to the grounds of the Camarines Norte Provincial Hospital (CNPH) along Bagasbas Road here on Saturday. There she got her biggest gift this Christmas: Poor people like her will never pay a single centavo to the provincial government-run hospital.
Camarines Norte Governor Edgardo Tallado on that day signed an executive order directing CNPH to stop charging the poorest of the poor in the province whenever they seek treatment starting January 2013, in time with the ceremonial reopening of the refurbished and renovated hospital.
Lazado knew the hardship and pain of going to the hospital without money. In October, one of her nine children, a daughter, complained of stomach ache. She went to the hospital from their island village with only P120 fare for boat and bus.
She settled her P3,000 hospital bill by seeking all the help she could get, relying on asking her also poor relatives to pool in money and pleading for
help from government institutions.
“Now that the hospital is not charging anymore, the only thing that we have to worry about is money for food,” said Lazado.
The poverty in Banocboc village has forced many of the residents to rely on alternative medicine. Villagers only go to the hospital to seek treatment when things become life or death, she said.
People like Lazado make up 90 percent of patients that CNPH cater to, said Arnulfo Salagostes, provincial health officer and director of CNPH.
“We serve the poorest of the poor who have nothing to pay hospital bills. That is why we thought of going on full charity,” said Salagostes.
He said poor Camarines Norte folk starting next year could just go to CNPH to seek treatment without worrying about the cost and other monetary concerns.
CNPH and all of its subsidiary medical establishments in the province, however, are going on full charity policy with lots of shortcomings.
It only has 100 beds but is actually accommodating over 150 patients on a regular basis.
It also lacks at least 10 physicians and about 15 nurses, said Myrna Rojas, its chief of clinics.
Tallado also admitted the lack of necessary facilities, including the very important CT (computerized tomography) scanner.
But he said they were reaching out to institutions that could help the hospital in acquiring the necessary equipment.
The Department of Health in the province said the national government has released P54 million for the upgrade of CNPH.