TABUK CITY, KALINGA – A recent incident in which a police officer made a death threat to a nurse was the last straw for employees of the Kalinga Provincial Hospital (KPH).
On Monday, doctors, nurses, and staff of the KPH went to Provincial Capitol to publicly denounce the death threat made by police officer Solomon Pao-iton and to finally speak out against the relentless backlash they’ve received on social media, verbal harassment they’ve endured at the hands of irate patients and their relatives, and repeated allegations of corruption.
Ethel Martin Lingan, a KPH nurse, said that on March 16, Pao-iton allegedly threatened her after she refused his request for a CT scan on a patient. “He entered the ER and said, ‘I-CT scan yu daytuy’. Wen sir, wait lang ta i-assess lang dyay doctor. Then kunana, ‘I’m requesting for a CT scan’. Wen sir, amin nga request yu magrantan but we will wait for the doctor to assess the patient first.” Lingan explained that it was protocol to do a CT scan procedure only under doctors’ orders, but the cop insisted. “Tapos nagsau-sau, kunana na nga, pinapangunahan kun nga ag-request kasi ammuk ket adu met ti anomalya dita provincial hospital. Idyay nakun nga nag-react,” Lingan said. “’Anya ti kunam?’ Kunak nga kasta. ‘Ket agpaysu met. Kitam dayta nga pasyente, nu man adda mangyari dita, iraman ku sika nga patayen’. When she called him out on his threat, Pao-iton allegedly challenged her to file a case. Lingan said that she is indeed considering legal action on the incident.
Governor Jocel Baac, who had been immediately alerted about the incident, strongly condemned it and ordered the Kalinga Provincial Police Office (KPPO) to do an investigation. “I do not tolerate this happening to anyone, not only to Ethel, especially government employees,” he said. He said that he supported the employees of KPH for speaking out.
Pao-iton’s accusation of anomalies echoes the backlash the KPH, particularly its billing and pharmacy sections, has been receiving on social media in recent months. Employees have been accused of overbilling patients, not deducting the price of unused medicines from bills, corrupting funds, among others. Maridel Torres who works at the billing section denied the allegations. “Adda ti kanya-kanyang section nga nu ma-x ray, X-ray [section] agikabil ti billing na, nu laboratory, lab ti agikabil, nu adda alaen na nga agas, pharmacy ti agikabil. Kasanu ngay nga nayunan mi dyay?,” she said.
Torres recounted a March 12 incident wherein Pasil Councilor John Yao and his wife allegedly accused them of not deducting the price of returned medicines from their bill but the issue was soon cleared after receipts and records showed otherwise. Torres said that the councilor had verbally harassed employees of the pharmacy during the ordeal. “’Dakayu apay haan kayu agkiskissay?’ [he said]. Nangibaga ti madi nga words.” Torres alleges that later on, through a personal message on Facebook, Yao’s wife would accuse her of changing her bill from P8,000 to P10,000. Holding up a document, Torres said, “Very clear dituy pinirmaan ni Mr. Yao P9,000 lang ti medicine na.”
She reiterated that the billing process cannot be manipulated: “Daytuy ibagbaga da nga naynayunan mi ti bill, haan nga mabalin kasi once nga nai-submit mi ti claims idyay PhilHealth, i-xerox da amin nga chart page to page sunga haan da nga ibaga nga naynayunan ti agas ta bawal dyay ti PhilHealth. Mai-xerox amin nga chart, makita amin nga agas na maikabil.”
In her statement, Lingan touched on the issue that has been, time and again, pointed out by employees and officials alike as the root cause of the problems the public has been complaining about KPH on social media: “KPH is 100 bed capacity only and yet we are catering more or less 200 patients in a day with only 24 doctors and with a nurse-patient ratio of 1:60-70 patients in a shift.”
Back in January, the governor had ordered employees to clean the KPH and to recruit additional 30 nurses and 20 utility workers after the hospital became the talk of the town over issues of poor sanitation. On Monday, Baac again directed concerned offices to create as many as 18 nurse positions not only for KPH but also for the district hospitals.
Lingan said that despite the high nurse-patient ratio, they have always tried to give their utmost care to all patients. But they would still find themselves and their institution on the receiving end of harsh criticisms, especially on social media.
“Maximum tolerance kami amin. We just laugh when we read all those comments,” Dr. Josephine Aguinalde said. But she admitted that the comments can become very personal and hurtful. “Ang sakit sakit talaga na we are trying our best to accommodate everybody pero despite that, nagadu pay dagituy nga mangngeg mu, personal pay met, nasakit,” she said.
She dismissed allegations that they’ve been overbilling their patients and emphasized that their actions are always based on policy and protocol. She appealed to the public to settle their grievances with KPH, instead of airing it on social media. “We are willing to answer and accommodate your query,” she said.
When the employees of KPH attended the flag-raising ceremony on Monday, they carried with them cardboard signs which they held up at various times during the program. Written on it are the messages they wish to convey to the people they serve: “Treat me right and I’ll treat you right”, “Respect begets respect”, and “We save lives”.
By Iryll Sicnao