Philippines: As hospital rebuilds, new life begins

November 2013

WHO is supporting the Philippine Department of Health's priority of rehabilitating health facilities such as Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban, which recently assisted the safe arrival of baby Olan into the world.

Olan was born on 20 November in the Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban, the city in the Philippines that was hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan earlier in the month. Olan’s parents are from Palo, a small town 12 kilometres south of the city.

Baby Olan Campomenos, 2 days-old, with his parents in Divine Word Hospital in Tacloban, Philippines.
WHO/T. Jasarevic

“When the typhoon hit, our roof flew off and water came in but it receded fast. Luckily, we were ready and had enough food,” says Mark Campomenos, baby Olan’s father. “My wife was due to deliver on 26 November, but we were really worried about whether we would make it to a hospital as local health facilities in Palo were destroyed.”

Olan was helped into the world by a team of doctors and nurses who were deployed from Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, to provide basic health services and perform surgeries at the Tacloban hospital. They worked alongside a 50-person strong Korean medical team who helped to keep the hospital functioning by cleaning up debris and performing basic reconstruction.

Olan was the first sign of new life in a hospital infrastructure that had to be resurrected after the typhoon.

Rehabilitation of health facilities a DoH priority

“We lost an almost-new MRI machine, an x-ray machine and lots of other material. Our diagnostics and emergency room were devastated,” says Sister Eliza Arpon, in charge of Divine Word Hospital. “It will take months to get back to the level we were at before the typhoon.”

“We lost an almost-new MRI machine, an x-ray machine and lots of other material. Our diagnostics and emergency room were devastated.”

Sister Eliza Arpon, in charge of Divine Word Hospital, Tacloban

All of the hospitals in Tacloban sustained considerable structural damage as a result of the typhoon. The Department of Health has designated the rehabilitation of health facilities as a priority area of work. To support this, WHO deployed a structural engineer to evaluate the damage and facilitate emergency reconstruction.

Many health facilities severely damaged by typhoon

“What we see the most is roof damage and extensive non-structural damage on the ground floor from storm surges. Our priority is to do emergency repairs to damaged roofing so that these hospitals regain functionality,” explains WHO’s Shalini Jagnarine. “For long-term rehabilitation, we will need to take into account the possibility of another strong typhoon.”

Tacloban City Hospital lost 80% of its roof. The wind tore down iron fences and patients were rushed into the delivery room the day of the storm. Today, only one functional building is being used to perform a limited number of consultations.

Bethany Hospital still has significant debris to be removed, including vehicles that were pushed against the building by the storm. Mother of Mercy hospital lost 40% of its roof.

In neighbouring municipalities, the situation isn’t any better. In Tanauan, 20 km south of Tacloban, medical services are being provided in city hall while foreign medical teams operate in tents.

Procuring and delivering the building materials necessary for rehabilitation is a major challenge. Such goods are not available in Tacloban and points of entry, such as the port, to receive materials are working at reduced capacity.

Once supplies arrive the recovery process will be intensified.