Cardiologist hits Cebu Pacific for ‘heartless’ treatment to sick baby
A cardiologist took to social media how low-budget airline Cebu Pacific Air’s “heartless” treatment almost placed the life of a six-day-old baby suffering from congenital heart disease in danger.
In a post on Sunday which has since gone viral on Facebook, Dr. Josephine Dela Cerna, a pediatric cardiologist said that on Sept. 26, she accompanied her patient for an emergent cardiac surgery to Manila from Cagayan de Oro City. Dela Cerna, along with the baby and his father, left the hospital at 4 a.m. for their 6:30 a.m. flight. However, upon arriving at Laguindingan Airport, they were told by the Cebu Pacific staff that the oxygen cylinder they brought could not be checked inside the plane.
The baby’s father then went back to Cagayan de Oro to look for an electric oxygen concentrator which can be used inside the plane. However, after getting the device, they later found out that it is incompatible to the 120 volt outlet in the plane.
“The baby was hooked to an oxygen and IVF (intravenous fluid) on our way to the airport. We left the hospital at 4AM to catch the 6:30AM flight. When we were about to board the plane, the crew of Cebu Pacific told us that we [cannot] bring an oxygen cylinder inside the plane and replace it with an electric oxygen concentrator. The father complained that he was just advised to bring a portable O2 so naturally he bought the 7K portable cylinder. But since the father wanted so much to bring his child to Manila for surgery, he went back to the hospital in CDO (Cagayan de Oro) (which was a 1 hour ride) to look for the electric oxygen concentrator. We were waiting at the breastfeeding room when the plane already left… The father came with the oxygen concentrator relieved that we are finally going to Manila. When we tried to plug in the device in the aircraft, the outlet was 120V! The father was so disappointed that no one in the crew told him that the outlet was 120V,” Dela Cerna said.
After failing to use the electric oxygen concentrator, the doctor asked the crew if they can use the emergency oxygen tank in the plane but they were told that it can only be used during inflight emergencies.
“I asked the crew if we can use their emergency O2 tank inside the plane instead. But the crew told us that the cylinder tank was ONLY for emergency! I blurted, isn’t this considered an emergency?! The baby needs O2 during the flight. They told us that it is only used in emergency during the flight and not when the plane is still on the ground!” she said.
Six hours in and they have ran out of portable oxygen and [breast milk] for the baby. This time, the baby’s father was asked to find a transformer which can be used in the plane. However, despite finding a transformer to use for the concentrator, the captain of the plane barred them from boarding the plane as the baby is only six-days-old.
“The father was advised to look for a transformer. Again, we waited patiently at the breastfeeding room until the father can provide the transformer. It has been more than 6 [hours] and we ran out already of portable oxygen, thus we were already using the electric oxygen concentrator at the breastfeeding room. We also ran out of [breast milk] for the baby. Good thing a female [C]ebu [P]acific crew donated [breast milk]. At last, the father had the transformer! We were all ready to board the plane. But when they asked permission from the captain, they wouldn’t allow us to board the plane since the baby is only 6 days old, plus they [won’t] allow us to bring the transformer! The 3rd plane flew without us! We were all [exhausted] and disappointed,” Dela Cerna continued.
By 3 p.m., the fourth plane en route to Manila arrived. The doctor said that the baby’s father was already crying out of frustration “because he gave in to all their demands but was refused to fly.”
They were then given the go-signal to fly but on the condition that they cannot bring the oxygen tank on board the plane. She said that they acceded to the condition in order for the baby to be brought to the hospital for surgery.
“I, the nurse and the father pleaded to the assistant supervisor to let us ride the plane but to no avail. I asked them to elevate this to their boss since I [cannot] allow my patient to stay in CDO, wait and die without the chance of having a surgery. The father was crying because he gave in to all their demands but was refused to fly. The 4th plane came at 3PM. Finally, the Cebu Pacific Doctor in Manila allowed us to fly the plane but without the oxygen! We decided to just board the plane even WITHOUT oxygen since we were too desperate to give the baby a chance to have the surgery,” the doctor said.
Dela Cerna said that they arrived in Manila at around 5 p.m. on Saturday, marking the end of their harrowing 10-hour ordeal. She also vowed that she will not fly with Cebu Pacific again.
“We prayed for the baby to be ok while waiting inside the plane without O2. We arrived in Manila at 5PM after greater than 10 hours of sweat, tears, exasperation and disappointment. NEVER AGAIN flying with the same airline,” she said.
The doctor hit Cebu Pacific Air for their heartless treatment.
“Heartless is the word. Why [can’t] they bend the rules for service and compassion? [Can’t] fly because the baby is 6 days old? The doctor is already with the baby!” she said.
The doctor said that the baby is now in the Philippine General Hospital for his surgery.
Dela Cerna’s post has been shared by more than 6,000 times as of posting time.
Cebu Pacific apologizes
Sought for comment, a statement from Cebu Pacific Air Corporate Communications Manager Michelle Pestaño-Fojas said that the airline is apologizing to the infant and his father “for not being able to fly them sooner.”
However, the administration reiterated its adherence to its safety protocol barring oxygen-laden tanks on board any of its planes.
“It was unfortunate that the infant and his father were not able to fly sooner. We apologize for the delay in accepting them on the flight, but CEB (Cebu Pacific Air) follows a safety protocol of not allowing oxygen-laden tanks on board, for the safety of the flight and all the passengers. It is for the same reason that scuba tanks are required to be fully bled before being checked in,” the statement forwarded to INQUIRER.net read.
The airline said that they only allow portable oxygen concentrators in the cabin.
They are also trying to get in touch with the passenger “to see how we can help them on their way back home.”
“We sincerely ask for the public’s understanding. We could have done more for them sooner, but compliance with safety procedures is a priority in all our flights,” it said. Aries Joseph Hegina/RAM
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