A group protesting against the closure of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila has reached out to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte in a last-ditch effort to halt the shutdown of the national maternity hospital’s 96-year history.
In a press conference, the Save Fabella Hospital Movement directly sought the incoming president’s support to stop the closure, which is scheduled on Thursday, June 9, Sunstar reported.
“We urge the President-elect Duterte to stop [Health] Secretary [Janette] Garin and stop the abolition of Fabella,” group spokesman Sean Herbert Velchez said.
“We urge him to make true his declaration that he will prioritize health care by scrapping the privatization of public health,” he added. The group also started an online petition letter still addressed to Duterte which has so far garnered over 300 supporters.
The group is strongly disputing the health department’s claims that the building of the Fabella hospital is structurally unsound and a potentially dangerous infrastructure. Instead, they claim that the outgoing administration is doing this to make way for plans to privatize hospital operations in the country.
Garin, however, has denied the accusation in a press conference last June 1. In a GMA News report, the DOH secretary was quoted as saying, "Fabella will not be abolished. Sabi nila, matatanggal daw Fabella. No. E yung lumang Fabella nga, hindi mo mapaayos-ayos, hindi mo mapabakbak yung building because it's part of the National Historical Institute."
A referendum is planned to be held among Fabella officials and employees for them to decide whether they want to stay or move. If Fabella workers approve of the transfer, the construction of the six-floor, 800-bed capacity hospital inside the DOH compound will proceed and reach completion by May 2017.
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Garin said that the current structure will not be closed and "will merely reduce bed occupancy and patient services to minimize the risk of damage to life and property in the event of a man-made or natural disaster." Patients and staff will be temporarily transferred to the Philippine General Hospital, José R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Fabella outpatient department in Quezon City, and other hospitals until its completion.
Named after the country’s first health secretary, the Fabella hospital was established in 1941 and has been considered as a special hospital for obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatric cases. But in 2004, the sale of the Old Bilibid Compound where the Fabella hospital stands was ordered under the Arroyo administration, the Manila Bulletin reported. The Fabella hospital has around 1,300 employees including doctors, nurses and other staff who currently serve an average of 1,000 patients daily.