Collaborative. Kind. Warm. Open. Accommodating. Friendly. These are the words echoed by volunteers in the hospital halls when describing the new relationships formed between Coron District Hospital staff and WSF volunteers. “We depend on them,” says Christina Prudencio, a nurse on her 3rd WSF mission, who handles the patient surgery schedule. As a very hands-on operation, WSF has volunteers and hospital staff working closely to direct patients to each other in preparation for surgery. “Everything is so organized, and everyone is so helpful,” said Mayette, the chief nurse of Coron District Hospital and one who has worked here for 32 years. “I was so touched to see Dr. Jason cleaning the tables, and doctors/nurses moving patients from OR beds to recovery room,” said Judith, head OR nurse and staff member of 22 years. ‘Service’ was the word they both used to describe their time at the hospital and our mission trip this week. What an honor for our work to be thought of at the same level as theirs.
Most importantly, it’s a space to share healthcare practices. Outside of the operating room, Sister Margaret and some recent nurse graduates volunteering from the local Rural Health Unit (RHU) discuss the practice of inserting an IV into patients and the cultural norms surrounding it. Inside the operation room, doctors show unique techniques of their own specialty in how they perform surgery. There’s a strong commitment to educate and learn on these mission trips.
Through discussions with Philippine healthcare workers, I am learning that medical missions are common in rural hospitals of the Philippines. One unique element to WSF, however, is their commitment to providing needed items and machines for hospitals to continue doing good work. “We have recycled many of our items. The donations mean we have the supplies to do our work. Your donations will help us save time.” These were the words of Judith, the head OR nurse. She described some of the timely procedures that would be quicker now with the donations from WSF.
Chief of Coron District Hospital, Dr. Edgar Flores
To truly understand the need for this adopted hospital in Coron, Chief of Hospital Dr. Flores explains in great detail. “We have been doing minor surgeries and orthopedics. Major surgical cases are referred to Manila and Culion.” These destinations require either a boat or plane, so many may not go. When there is a high tide and rough sea, people will not come to the hospital. WSF experienced this during the week when we were told that a boat of patients was delayed from another island due to a tropical storm. He goes on further to say, “People are hesitant to come here because we lack specialists.” Dr. Flores also emphasizes that the Coron economy will strengthen with this adopted hospital model because tourists will know “they are safe here” because there are people to help in times of energy. I hear Coron, Palawan, regularly referred to as “The Next Boracay” – and I now see that even with the help of WSF, it is all connected.
According to Dr. Flores, the population of Coron is 80% indigenous people (many who speak their own Palawan tribe dialect) and 20% other – these 20% are those that usually can afford to pay. Collaboration for this hospital has always involved a mix of strong local government support, NGOs, and even the local community members. He hopes that in the future patients can donate food as a fee for service to equip the hospital with food for admitted patients – a model he has seen in other provincial hospitals. As he said this to me, a patient comes in with 6 pizza pies as a thank you for the hospital’s service! Dr. Flores stresses that the needs are still increasing in the community, and the continuous support for medical services from collaborators will help the hospital to support the people.
There are only 3 doctors including Dr. Flores, 8 nurses, and 4 contractual nurses that work here. He closed by saying, “We don’t know how we do it, but as long as we love our work, we are ok!”