‘Hostage’ baby is finally home
A lot of prayers must have gone out for Baby John Aron Charles Angeles to be finally reunited with his family this Christmas.
After her newborn was virtually held hostage in a hospital for four months because she was unable to pay the medical bills, Eleonor Escarpe has all the time in the world now to hug, kiss and care for her son.
“I felt very happy as a mother the first time I carried my baby,” said Escarpe, a first-time mother at 34.
“Although initially he felt uneasy, moving in every direction while I was holding him, it was heaven when he fell asleep in my arms in the jeepney on our way home,” she said.
That was Nov. 25, the day Baby John was finally released from the nursery intensive care unit of the University of Perpetual Help-Dr. Jose Tamayo Medical Center (UPH) in Biñan, Laguna, and the mother and son made their way to their rented room in Planas Ville, Muntinlupa.
Their deliverance occurred exactly 10 days after the story, “Hospital holds baby until mom pays up,” came out in the Inquirer.
On July 19, Escarpe gave birth to Baby John prematurely—although by natural procedure—at the UPH after government hospitals in Manila refused them admission for one reason or another.
For the next four months she was not allowed to touch or hug her baby as hospital staff said he needed intensive care because, having weighed only 1.14 kilograms at birth, he had pneumonia and pulmonary problems.
After the Inquirer published the story about the mother who had been unable to embrace her baby since giving birth four months before, Netizens started tweeting celebrities and friends, asking for prayers and money so Baby John could be reunited with his parents for Christmas.
Early Christmas gift
Escarpe said it was indeed an early Christmas gift and thanked those who prayed with them because she did not expect the release to happen so fast.
“I got a call from the hospital on Nov. 24 asking me to bring the necessary identification papers,” she said.
She happened to be at the Department of Health (DOH) office in Manila at the time, meeting with Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa who had called her and promised her that he would talk with the staff of UPH, at the insistence of Health Secretary Enrique Ona.
“Undersecretary Herbosa told me that it was wrong for any hospital to keep a baby or a patient even if the family is unable to pay the hospital bill. He said it was against Republic Act No. 9439, or the Anti-Patient Detention Law,” Escarpe said.
She said she and Baby John’s father had signed a promissory note undertaking to pay the hospital bill in monthly installments.
“But Herbosa told me that even with the promissory note, we should pay only according to our capability because we have no permanent job,” Escarpe said.
With her baby now under her care, Escarpe has returned to her job as a caddie at the Alabang Country Club. Her partner, Edgar Angeles, who used to work as a grass cutter at the South Luzon Expressway, has been jobless since his contract ended.
“My mother takes care of him (Baby John) when I’m busy at work, or I’m out looking for guarantors and donors,” she said.
Escarpe said her work is backbreaking, and coworkers believe it may have caused her water bag to rupture early, causing her to give birth two months before her due date.
“They told me I was very hardheaded, that I wouldn’t listen to them, because at five months I was still carrying those heavy bags,” she said.
According to Dr. Evelyn Buenaventura, the UPH hospital director, the hospital had “accommodated them because we wanted to help them.”
In the four-month period between July 19 and Nov. 10, the couple owed a total of P710,000 for the delivery and care of the premature baby, the hospital said.
On Nov. 16, the balance went down to P661,656.14 after the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) guaranteed a donation of P50,000.
“Aside from guaranteeing us P10,000 assistance, Undersecretary Herbosa told us not to lose hope. We went back to PCSO upon the DOH’s recommendation. I hope they can help us again,” Escarpe said.
As of Nov. 29, Escarpe said her brother’s account—Jonathan Escarpe 8329-1600-26—at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, where donors may deposit donations, has received a total of P6,000 from anonymous donors. (She can be contacted at 0999-5721514.)
“I am not totally happy being mired in debt. I keep thinking: ‘How am I going to be able to pay such a big amount when financial assistance is coming in trickles?’” she said.
Her caddie friends, Escarpe said, have been consoling her, telling her that having her baby all to herself now after four agonizing months should be what she should occupy her thoughts, not the worries that only serve to distract her.
Escarpe said that it will be a long time before she even tries to have another child.
“That was the biggest lesson I learned. If I get pregnant again, I’ll make sure I am financially ready. I know how it feels to be rejected by hospitals,” she said.
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