Only In The Philippines
RSM seeks to be the hands of God extended to the hurting and neglected. The ministry began as a shelter to children, but early on it became obvious that poor healthcare was part of what sent children to our door. And not only poor on the side of the patient, but also poor on the side of the providers. Take this example ...
"Rex" is a 20-something construction worker with a wife and small child. A strong man, easy going, and a good husband and father.
One day we received a call that Rex had a stroke. One side of his body was useless. Could we drive him to the charity hospital? This was not election time, when all ambulances are transformed into election campaign vehicles, but they still could not find one. And since it was raining in buckets, they could not talk a trike driver into making the several kilometer trip. We picked up Rex and family members and drove to the closest government hospital (about 30 kilometers from Sampaloc) where they could receive free services.
The doctor suspected it was not a stroke, but a mineral deficiency, and wanted to first try an IV to boost Rex's mineral levels. However, the hospital did not stock such an IV solution in their pharmacy, and they sent us down the street to a private hospital to get it while Rex waited. That hospital also had none, and we convinced them to call a couple others to save us time hunting. (It was close to midnight by then.) They located the IV solution in the next city, and off we went.
When we presented the slip to order the IV solution they gave us... an empty blood specimen tube? None of the hospital staff up until now had informed us (or known) that the blood should be tested before administering this IV solution, and the lab would not give it up. We drove back to the government hospital with the tube. The doctor said OK, but the tube also required a syringe--we need to buy one in their pharmacy. (Yes, that's the way it is done here--even for toilet paper.) To our inquiry there, the pharmacist replied "out of stock," and suggested we go down the street to the 24-hour drug store. A family member took the umbrella and a few pesos to go buy the syringe. (Mental note: carry a syringe in the glove box.) At this point, nearly 2:00 AM, we left family members to take the blood specimen back to the lab in the next city, where they would wait 1-2 hours while the blood sample was tested. They returned with the IV solution.
Thankfully, a mineral deficiency was indeed the reason for the stroke-like symptoms, and Rex was eventually regaining use of his limbs. Malnutrition is common, and Rex had been scrimping on his own food to feed his family since work had been slow.
But the experience was not yet over. You see, Rex could not be admitted into any of the 10 charity beds because they were all full--he had to go to the pay ward (6-8 patients per room), where after three days of recovery he had racked up a 5500 peso tab, plus 2140 for the initial lab work. Since Rex only made 300 pesos per day when there was work, and he did not qualify for government health insurance or credit cards, this would mean that he could pay off the bill in only 1-2 months if the family stopped eating. But the hospital does not take credit either, so friends and relatives had to pool money to pay the bill so he could check out. (Newborns are "held for ransom" by hospitals even for months until the parents pay for delivery.)
Could Rex have been spared this incredible scare and expense by having a simple check-up? Possibly. But it is obvious to any observer that there are also extreme lacks in service availability, medicine and supplies, training, and sometimes sanitation that accompany health care in rural Philippines.
People from our area face astronomical medical bills when they do not seek medical attention until the problem becomes a true crisis. (You would be amazed at the number of people who are walking around with broken or abcessed teeth, for instance.) The difficulties of accessing and affording adequate healthcare sometimes leads to the family dissolving, or at least deepening their poverty. The wage-earner may suffer a debilitating injury, succumb to depression (and alcohol/gambling), pawn or surrender one or more children, or simply abandon the family.
Our goal is to provide good, low-cost healthcare to people like Rex.